This is the second of 3 meetings between these two teams this season. The Pacers won the first meeting 122-117 in Indiana on December 11, 2019. It was their first meeting since the Celtics swept the Pacers in the first round of last year’s playoffs. They will meet again on April 2 in Boston. The Celtics won the series 3-1 last season. The Celtics lead the series all time 98-80 but trail in the series 36-53 in games played in Indiana.
The Celtics are still 3rd in the East although they have slipped to just 1.5 games ahead of the Heat for the 4th spot. After climbing to within half a game of Toronto with the chance to move into 2nd, they have now slipped back to 3.5 games behind the Raptors. The Celtics are 19-12 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They have lost their last two games.
The Pacers are 5th in the East, 3.5 games behind the Celtics. They are 2 games behind 4th place Miami and 1 game ahead of 6th place Philadelphia. Both teams are fighting for playoff position and it is possible that they could meet in the first round once again. The Pacers are 21-10 at home and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They have won their last 2 games.
The Pacers have a strong inside game with Sabonis and Turner while the Celtics are more perimeter oriented with strong wings. Both teams have a balanced attack. The Pacers have 4 starters averaging in double figures with a 5th averaging 9.5 points per game. The Celtics also have 4 starters averaging in double figures with the 5th starter averaging 9.1 points per game.
Both teams have a starter out with a key bench player starting in his place. Aaron Holiday is expected to start in place of Malcolm Brogdon, who averages 16.3 points and is out with a torn quad. Marcus Smart is expected to once again start in place of Jaylen Brown, who averages 20.4 points per game. Neither team has any player averaging double figures off the bench.
Jaylen Brown is out for this game with the hamstring injury. Robert Williams is listed as probable for this game with a strained back. For the Pacers, Malcolm Brogdon is out with a torn quad. Jeremy Lamb is also out with a torn ACL. Victor Oladipo is day to day and is considered a game time decision as the seeks to get back to 100% from the knee injury that sidelined him for a full year. He has been on a minutes limit since returning from the injury. Doug McDermott (toe) is doubtful.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams (back) probable
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) out
Two Way Players
Probable Pacers Starters
Malcolm Brogdon (quad) out
Jeremy Lamb (knee) out
Doug McDermott (toe) doubtful
Victor Oladipo (knee) game time decision
2 Way Players
Brian Bowen II
Jayson Tatum vs Domantas Sabonis
Sabonis is averaging 18.3 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists. He is shooting 53.8% from the field but just 25% from beyond the arc. In the first game between these two teams he had 15 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists. The Celtics need to try to keep him out of the paint and off of the boards.
Gordon Hayward vs TJ Warren
Warren is averaging 18.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals. He is shooting 53% from the field and 37.8% from beyond the arc. The Celtics must stay with him, especially on the perimeter to keep him from having a big game.
Marcus Smart vs Victor Oladipo
Oladipo is still trying to get back to 100% after missing an entire year with a ruptured tendon in his knee. He has been playing but they are being cautious with him and he is considered questionable for this game. If he plays, he is averaging 12.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. He is shooting 37.8% from the field and 28.1% from beyond the arc. If he doesn’t play, the drop off is considerable to whoever fills in off the bench.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins Championships and for certain, defense will decide this game. The Celtics are 4th in the league with a defensive rating of 106.1. The Pacers are 7th with a defensive rating of 107.6. The Celtics average 113 points per game while the Pacers average 109.3 points per game. The Pacers shoot 38% from the floor while the Celtics shoot 36%. The Celtics have let their defense slip over their losing streak and they need to get back to making defense a priority. The Celtics need to clamp down on defense from the start and keep it up until the final buzzer.
Rebound - Rebounding takes effort and desire and very often the team that wins the rebounding battle will come out on top in the game. The Celtics are averaging 46.0 rebounds to 42.8 for Indiana. The Celtics must crash the boards as a team to beat the Pacers to rebounds in this game. Rebounding takes effort and the Celtics must put out the extra effort to beat the Pacers on the boards.
Effort and Aggressiveness The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team on the road, especially. They have to be aggressive going to the basket and getting into the paint. They have to be aggressive in beating the Pacers to loose balls and rebounds. They have to be the more aggressive team on defense and they have to play harder than the Pacers for 48 minutes. The Celtics have allowed teams to play harder than them during their 4 game home losing streak. They didn’t play with the grit and heart that we have seen from them in the past. They need to get back to leaving it all out on the court and giving all out effort for 48 minutes.
Move the Ball - The Celtics play best when they keep the ball moving and when they keep moving on both offense and defense. The Pacers play at a slower pace and the Celtics need to force them to play at a faster pace and force them out of their comfort zone. The Pacers average 26 assists while the Celtics are averaging just 22.9 assists per game. When the Celtics move the ball and find the open man and play unselfish team ball, they are very hard to beat. But, when the ball slows down and they over-dribble and play hero ball, they tend to struggle.
Road Game - The Celtics are on the road for two games before going back home for the second half of a back to back. The players have to focus on the game and block out all the distractions that come with playing on the road. The Pacers are a good home team but they are playing the first game at home after a 4-1 road trip and often that is a tough game. The Celtics can’t let the crowd and the Pacers, who will be more aggressive at home, fluster them and take them out of the game.
Officiating - I know that I say this every game, but the officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game differently, whether they call every little ticky tack foul or they let a lot of contact go and let the teams play. Some refs favor the home team and some not so much. Some crews are just bad. The Celtics have got to adjust to the way the game is being called and not let the officiating distract them from playing their game.