The Celtics host the Pacers for the 3rd of 4 regular season games. The Celtics won the first meeting 108-98 on November 25 and they won the second meeting 112-111 on December 18. Both games were in Indiana. They will meet one more time on March 11 in Boston.
The Celtics are playing in the second of back to back games. This is the tenth of fourteen total back to back sets for the Celtics. The Celtics are 6-3 on the second night of back to back games and they are 2-1 when the games are road/home.
The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games and are 21-8 at home. They still hold the top spot in the East but the Raptors are right there, just 1 game behind them with both teams winning on Thursday. The Pacers are 6-4 in their last 10 games and are 11-14 on the road. The Pacers are holding down the 6th spot in the East. The Celtics are looking for their second straight win while the Pacers are looking to get back in the win column after a loss in their last game.
Since January 3, the Pacers are 11-6. That’s the most wins by any team in the league over that stretch. The Celtics have won 5 straight games between these two teams. The Celtics can’t take this team lightly as they are a tough team that plays hard and also can shoot very well from the field and also from beyond the arc.
For the Celtics, Marcus Smart (hand), Shane Larkin (knee) and Gordon Hayward (ankle) are all out. The Pacers are missing Darren Collison (knee) and Glen Robinson III (ankle).
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Marcus Smart (hand) out
Shane Larkin (knee) day to day
Two Way Players
Probable Pacers Starters
Glenn Robinson (ankle) out
Darren Collison (knee) 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 24.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.9 steals. He is shooting 48.7% from the field and 39% 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 13.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists. He is shooting 46.8% from the field and 38.7% from beyond the arc. Tatum needs to stay with him both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Celtics Bench vs Pacers Bench
In both games so far against the Pacers, their reserves came up big for them. Domantas Sabonis came up big in both games with 19 points and 7 rebounds in one game and 17 points and 7 rebounds in the other. Sabonis is averaging 12.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists for the year. Lance Stephenson is also playing well, averaging 9.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3 assists per game. The Celtics reserves have to come up big for the Celtics on both ends of the court.
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. T 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. They can’t let the Pacers be the team that works harder.
Play Defense - Defense wins games. The Pacers are the 6th best 3 point shooting team in the league, shooting 37.4% 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 106.7 points per game while the Celtics average just 103.0 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 5th in the league with 18.1 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 15.1 per game.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics seem to either get a big lead and then let their opponents come back, or they get down big and have to claw their way back into the game. Of course there are some games like against the Raptors where they don’t play well at all and they get down and stay there. They have to play hard for 48 minutes. Start strong and play hard all the way to the final buzzer.
Home Game - The Celtics are playing in the first of 3 straight home games. They need to draw strength and motivation from the home crowd. Also, the Pacers haven’t been a strong road team and so the Celtics need to come out strong and take advantage of being at home.
Fatigue - The Celtics are playing in the second of back to back games after traveling overnight after their game in Washington. They aren’t quite as deep as they would be without the injuries that have hit, but they still hopefully have the depth to allow them to play hard right up until the end.