The Celtics complete their 3 game road trip in Indiana as they take on the Pacers for the 3rd of 4 games between these two teams this season. The Celtics won 101-98 in overtime when they played at Boston on January 10. Then 2 days later, the Celtics won 119-100 in Indiana as they completed the home and home set. They will play one more time on April 1 in Boston. The Celtics are 103-81 all time overall against the Pacers and 39-54 in games played in Indiana.
The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games. They won a matinee game in Detroit on Saturday and had to travel afterwards for this game. The Celtics are 7-3 on the second night of back to back games and they are 4-1 when the games are both on the road. The Celtics have won 7 straight road games. The Celtics have won the last 4 games against the Pacers and the last 2 games in Indiana.
The Celtics are in the final game of a 3 game road trip. They won the first two games against the Nets and Pistons. They begin a 3 game home stand on Tuesday where they will face the Hawks, Grizzlies, and Nets. The Pacers are playing in the final game of a 3 game home stand where they are 1-1 so far. They are playing in the first of back to back games and will start a 3 game road trip on Monday in Orlando.
The Celtics are 6th in the East and have won their last 2 games. They are 9-1 in their last 10 games and are 16-15 on the road. They are 26-15 against other Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics are now 2.5 games ahead of 7th place Toronto. They are half a game behind 5th place Milwaukee, 1 game behind 4th place Cleveland and 1.5 games behind 3rd place Philadelphia. They are 4.5 games out of first place.
The Pacers are 13th in the East and are coming off a loss. They are 2-8 in their last 10 games and they are 14-18 at home. They are 9-29 against other Eastern Conference teams. They are one of 5 teams battling at the bottom of the league for lottery balls. The Pacers are 5.5 games ahead of 14th place Detroit and 6 ahead of 15th place Orlando. They are half a game ahead of OKC and 4 games ahead of Houston. They are 5.5 games behind 12th place New York.
The Celtics still have a clear injury report at this time. Hopefully it stays that way. The Pacers will be short handed with 4 players out and 2 more questionable. Chris Duarte (toe) and Lance Stephenson (ankle) are both questionable. Their status will be a game time decision. T.J. McConnell (wrist), Myles Turner (foot), T.J. Warren (foot) and Ricky Rubio (knee) are all out for the Pacers. Rubio has not played for the Pacers and will miss the rest of the season.
Probable Celtics Starters
Probable Pacers Starters
Chris Duarte (toe) questionable
Lance Stephenson (ankle) questionable
T.J. McConnell (wrist) out
Ricky Rubio (knee) out
Myles Turner (foot) out
T.J. Warren (foot) out
Duane Washington, Jr
Jaylen Brown vs Malcolm Brogdon
Brogdon is averaging 18.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.9 assists. He is shooting 44.7% from the field and 31.0% from beyond the arc. His shooting percentages aren’t that high right now, but not all that long ago he was a member of the 50-40-90 club so the Celtics need to stay with him to keep him from getting open shots.
Jayson Tatum vs Buddy Hield
Hield is averaging 15 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. He is shooting 39.4% from the field and 36.9% from beyond the arc. He has only been with the Pacers since February 8 but has been playing well for them. The Celtics will need Jayson Tatum to play well on both ends of the court once again.
Marcus Smart vs Tyrese Haliburton
Haliburton has also only been with the team since February 8. He is averaging 14.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He is shooting 46.2% from the field and 41.6% from beyond the arc. He is a danger to hit 3’s if not defended well and he also is a threat to break up passes and get steals if the Celtics aren’t focused on taking care of the ball.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to winning every single game. The Celtics are 2nd in the league with a defensive rating of 104.9. The Pacers are 26th with a defensive rating of 113.2. The Celtics have been winning games with their defense and they need to continue to make defense their identity and their priority. The Celtics need to especially defend the paint as the Pacers are 5th with 49.3 points in the paint per game.
Rebound - The Celtics are 2nd in the league, pulling down 46.5 rebounds per game. The Pacers are 18th with 44.6 rebounds per game. It is important to rebound the ball to give themselves extra possessions and to prevent the Pacers from getting the same along with 2nd chance points. The Ppacers get 14.2 second chance points per game (7th). Much of rebounding is desire and effort and the Celtics have got to put out more effort on the boards than the Pacers if they want to get a win in this game.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to be the more aggressive team and they have to work harder and play harder than the Pacers. They have to be more aggressive on defense, on the boards, in going after loose balls and in 50-50 balls. They have to be the team that wants it more and play like it. The Celtics allowed the Pistons to be the more aggressive team in the first half of Saturday’s game but they picked up their effort and finished the game playing harder. They need to be more aggressive from start to finish.
Focus and Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics need to stay focused and take good shots and not rush the offense or play too much iso ball. They need to stay focused on playing the right way and on taking care of the ball. The Celtics still tend to play too much iso ball and they need to keep the ball moving and look for the best shots. They also need to focus on handling the ball and making crisp passes and not turning the ball over.
Underestimation - Underestimating teams that have bad records and teams that are shorthanded is very dangerous but yet, the Celtics have done it many times. The loss to the Pistons that ended the Celtics 9 game losing streak was likely due to underestimating the Pistons. The Celtics need to approach this game as if they were playing the top team in the league and not one of the worst. They can’t afford to underestimate the Pacers because that is when they get sloppy and stop playing the lock down defense that has been winning them games. Start strong and play hard throughout the game.
Back to Back Games - The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games. Coach Udoka went just 8 players deep on Saturday with Tatum, Horford and Brown all playing 35 or more minutes. The Celtics have been playing very well on the road and have done well with 7 wins and 3 losses in back to back games this season. But, fatigue can absolutely be an x-factor and so the coach needs to be aware of that and substitute accordingly.
Officiating - Officiating can always be 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 or call it fairly? Will the Celtics spend more time complaining about fouls than actually shooting the ball? Once again, the Celtics must adjust to the way the crew is calling the game and not allow it to become a distraction for them.