Just 2 days after the Celtics lost a 1 point game to the Indiana Pacers, the Celtics and Pacers will be back on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court for another face off. The first game was close throughout and could have gone either way as Domantas Sabonis hit a driving layup to put the Pacers up 1 with 8.4 seconds left and Jayson Tatum missed a 3 pointer at the buzzer to seal the win for the Pacers.
If ever the Celtics had a game they should have won, it was this one. The Pacers were playing on the second night of back to back games and had to travel after the game and Victor Oladipo was out for load management. But even through the Celtics shot 50% from the field, they allowed the Pacers to shoot 51% and to score 60 points in the paint.
The Celtics have had the same starting lineup for their first 3 regular season games with Smart, Brown, Tatum, Thompson and Theis starting. I’ve listed that same starting 5 for this game, although Brad may decide to go in a different direction after 2 straight losses. I expect that Oladipo will be back in the starting lineup for Indiana.
The Celtics should have the same 3 players on the injured list: Kemba Walker (knee), Romeo Langford (wrist), and Tacko Fall (eye). The Pacers should have Jeremy Lamb (knee), Goga Bitadze (ankle) and Brian Bowen (groin) all out. Edmond Sumner (illness) is a game time decision.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
Romeo Langford (wrist) out
Kemba Walker (knee) out
Tacko Fall (eye) out
Probable Pacers Starters
Edmond Sumner (illness) game time decision
Jeremy Lamb (knee) out
Goga Bitadze (ankle) out
Brian Bowen (groin) out
Tristan Thompson vs Domantas Sabonis
If Brad goes with the double big starting lineup once again, Tristan Thompson will be matched up with Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis is leading the Pacers with 24.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists. He was able to get to the basket pretty much at will, including the game winner. The Celtics must defend him better if they hope to win this one.
Jaylen Brown vs Victor Oladipo
Oladipo was out for Sunday’s game for load management. He is averaging 22 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Although Aaron Holiday did well on Sunday with 14 points, Oladipo will be much harder for Brown to cover. He is capable of putting up points in a hurry if the defense doesn’t cover him tightly.
Marcus Smart vs Malcolm Brogdan
Brogdon was a good addition to the Pacers. He is averaging 21.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. On Sunday, against the Celtics, he had 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals, shooting 55% from the field.
Keys to the Game
Defense - If the Celtics are to get back on track and start winning, they must work harder on defense. On Sunday, the Celtics shot 50.6% but they allowed the Pacers to shoot 51.1%. They also allowed 60 points in the paint. Defense is the key to winning games and championships. The Celtics are 26th with a defensive rating of 116.9. Last season, the Celtics had a top 4 defensive rating and they should be doing much better this season. Until they get back to playing tough team and individual defense, they are going to struggle to get wins.
Rebound - The Celtics are 25th in the league, pulling down 41.3 rebounds per game. It is important to rebound the ball to give themselves extra possessions and to prevent the opponent from getting extra possessions. Much of rebounding is desire and effort and the Celtics have got to put out more effort on the boards if they want to get back in the win column.
Play As a Team - The Celtics play very well for periods in a game when they run and move the ball and play unselfishly, finding the open man and the best shot. Then, they for some reason go away from that and play hero ball, dribbling out the clock and taking contested, last second shots. A good example of this is the last shot in Sunday’s game when Jayson Tatum dribbled out the clock and shot a deep 3. Against the Bucks, the Celtics had no assists in the 4th quarter. Against the Nets, Smart had 3 assists and the only other assist came from Waters. On Sunday, the Celtics had just 2 assists in the 4th quarter. They have to play team ball for the entire game and not lapse into hero ball.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics turned the ball over 18 times, which led to 25 points for the Pacers. The Pacers are 5th in the league with 15.7 points off turnovers per game. If the Celtics get sloppy with the ball once again in this game, the Pacers will make them pay. They have to be more careful with their passes and be more aware when they are dribbling.
Effort and Focus - So far, the Celtics haven’t shown the kind of effort and focus that they did last season, especially on the defensive end of the court. Will they find that extra gear once again? The revenge factor should motivate them in this one.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Every officiating crew calls the game differently. Will the refs call it tight? Will they let them play? Will they favor the home team? Once again, the Celtics must adjust to the way the crew is calling the game.