The Celtics continue a brutal stretch of games with a visit to the Indiana Pacers. This is the second of four meetings this season between these two teams. They will meet two more times in Boston on February 9 and March 11. The Celtics won the first meeting between these two teams 108-98.
Neither team was at full strength in that first game. The Celtics were without Hayward and Morris as they have been much of this season, but they were also without Jaylen Brown. The Pacers were missing their leading scorer, Victor Oladipo. With Oladipo back in the lineup for this one, the Celtics will have a tougher challenge in trying to beat them.
The Celtics 7-3 in their last 10 games and 12-4 on the road. The Pacers are 6-4 in their last 4 games and 10-6 at home. Both teams are looking for their second straight win. The Pacers are playing on the second night of back to back games, having beat the Nets on the road on Sunday night. The Pacers are 2-4 on the second night of back to back games. Their first loss to the Celtics was on the second night of back to back games. They have also beaten the Cavs twice so far this season.
The Celtics will once again be without Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris. Daniel Theis is expected to play the second game in a row with a mask to protect his broken nose. The Pacers will be without Ike Angibogu and TJ Leaf, who have been assigned to the G-League. Glen Robinson is out with an ankle injury. Alex Poythress, one of Indiana's two-way players has been called up to the Pacers.
Probable Celtics Starters
Daniel Theis (with mask)
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Marcus Morris (knee) out
Two Way Players
Probable Pacers Starters
Glenn Robinson (ankle) out
Ike Anigbogu (G-League assignment) out
TJ Leaf (G-League assignment) out
Two Way Players
Jaylen Brown vs Victor Oladipo
Jaylen Brown's defense will be tested as he is matched up with Victor Oladipo, who has been playing at an All-Star level. He is averaging 24.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.8 steals. He is shooting 47% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc. Slowing down Oladipo will go a long way toward getting a win over the Pacers.
Jayson Tatum vs Bojan Bogdanovic
Bogdanovic is averaging 14.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He is shooting 48% from the field and 42% from beyond the arc. Tatum needs to stay with him both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Aron Baynes vs Myles Turner
In the first game between these teams, Turner had a team high 19 points to go with 6 rebounds. He is averaging 14.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.4 blocks. He is shooting 35.6% from beyond the arc.
Keys to the Game
Rebound - The Celtics must box out and crash the boards. They can't score without the ball and it will take extra effort on their part to grab the rebounds. The Celtics have been rebounding very well but in recent games have let their rebounding slip somewhat letting the Jazz outrebound them 55-31. In the first game between these two teams, the Pacers out-rebounded the Celtics 36-30. The Celtics must crash the boards as a team and beat the Pacers to the rebounds.
Be Aggressive - I already mentioned that the Celtics must be aggressive on the boards, but they also must be aggressive on defense, in going after loose balls, and just all around going all out. They have to aggressively attack the basket. They need to start the game with that aggressive attitude and be aggressive through the whole game with no let up. Recently, the Celtics let the Jazz and the Bulls be the more aggressive team and they lost both games. They can't let the Pacers be the team that works harder.
Play Defense - Defense wins games. The Pacers are the 3rd best 3 point shooting team in the league, shooting 39.1% from beyond the arc and so the Celtics have to close out on their outside shooters. They also must play better defense in the paint as they have been allowing too many easy shots in recent games. The Pacers average 108.1 points per game while the Celtics average just 103.6 points per game. If the Celtics want to get a win in this game, they must make playing tough defense a priority.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man. The Pacers are 4th in the league with 19.2 points per game off turnovers and so the Celtics must focus on making good passes and be aware of the Pacers ability to close out the passing lanes. If the Celtics get careless, the Pacers will make them pay as they are also 3rd in fast break points with 15.3 per game.
Play 48 Minutes - Against the Grizzlies, the Celtics got off to a fast start and a big lead but let up and allowed the Grizzlies to come all the way back and take a lead. The Celtics have been either getting a big lead and then letting their opponents come back, or they get down big and have to claw their way back into the game. They have to play hard for 48 minutes. Start strong and play hard all the way to the final buzzer.
On the Road - The Celtics are back on the road and are once again playing in a hostile environment. The players have to focus on the game and block out all the distractions that come with playing on the road.
Fatigue - The Pacers are playing in the second of back to back games and the Celtics are playing in a very tough stretch that included two stretches of 3 games in 4 nights with just one game between them. Which team will use their depth the best and overcome their fatigue?