The Celtics look to get back on the winning track as they host the Indiana Pacers. This is the 4th and final game between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first game 101-98 on January 10 in Boston. They then won the second game two days later 119-100 on January 12 in Indiana. The third game did not go as the Celtics would have liked as they lost 128-107 on February 27 to a short handed Pacers team in Indiana.
In that loss, the Pacers were missing 5 players while the Celtics were without only Al Horford. The newly acquired Tyrese Haliburton (22 points, 4 rebounds, 9 assists) and Buddy Hield (21 points, 6 rebounds 4 assists) led the Pacers in that one. The Celtics won the series 2-1 last season. The Celtics are 103-82 all time against the Pacers overall and they are 58-26 all time in games that were played in Boston. The Celtics have beaten the Pacers 4 straight times in Boston.
The Celtics are in 3rd place again after Philadelphia lost to Detroit on Thursday. They have lost their last 2 games and are 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 26-13 at home and 30-18 vs other Eastern Conference opponents. The Celtics are 2 games behind first place Miami and 1.5 behind 2nd place Milwaukee. They are half a game ahead of 4th place Philadelphia, 2 games ahead of 5th place Chicago and 2.5 games ahead of 5th place Toronto.
The Pacers are 13th in the East and have lost their last 5 games. They are 3-7 in their last 10 games and 9-29 on the road. They are 11-36 against other Eastern Conference teams. They are 8.5 games behind 12th place Washington and 9 games behind 11th place New York so there is no chance of them moving up into play-in position. They are 4.5 games ahead of 14th place Detroit and 5 games ahead of 15th place Orlando.
The Celtics are playing the second of a 3 game home stand. They lost the first game to Miami when some old habits came back to haunt them. They will complete the home stand on Sunday against Washington. They will then finish the season on the road against Chicago, Milwaukee and Memphis. The Pacers are playing just this one game on the road before a home stand against Detroit and Philadelphia before finishing on the road against Philadelphia once more and Brooklyn.
The Celtics have just Robert Williams III out with the knee injury. The Pacers have 5 players out and 4 others listed as questionable. Chris Duarte (toe), TJ McConnell (wrist), Ricky Rubio (knee), Myles Turner (foot) and TJ Warren (foot) are all listed as out. Malcolm Brogdon has missed the last 6 games for rest and is questionable for this game for rest. Isaiah Jackson is questionable due to headaches after a concussion. Oshae Brissett has missed two games with back soreness and is questionable for this game. Goga Bitadze is questionable with foot soreness.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams (knee) out
Probable Pacers Starters
Chris Duarte (toe) out
TJ McConnell (wrist) out
Ricky Rubio (knee) out
Myles Turner (foot) out
TJ Warren (foot) out
Malcolm Brogdon (rest) questionable
Isaiah Jackson (head) questionable
Oshae Brissett (back) questionable
Goga Bitadze (foot) questionable
Two Way Players
Duane Washington, Jr
Jaylen Brown vs Buddy Hield
Hield is averaging 15.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. He is shooting 45.4% from the field and 37.6% from beyond the arc. Hield is a good shooter and can score in bunches if left open. In the Celtics loss to the Pacers in February, he had 21 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. The Celtics need to stick with him on defense to try to limit his scoring in this one.
Marcus Smart vs Tyrese Haliburton
Haliburton is averaging 14.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 8.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He is shooting 45.4% from the field and 39.7% from beyond the arc. Haliburton gave the Celtics problems in their February loss to the Pacers. He finished with 22 points, 4 rebounds and 9 assists. The Celtics need to slow him down in this game.
Boston Celtics vs Boston Celtics
The Celtics worst enemy is themselves. They beat themselves in their February loss to the Pacers as they were almost at full strength while the Pacers were short handed. They also beat themselves on Wednesday against the Heat when they reverted to old habits and lost their composure in the fourth quarter. The Celtics have to stay focused and get back to playing the way they were during their win streaks.
Keys to the Game
Defense - If the Celtics want to get back on track and get back to winning, they must make defense a priority. Defense is always the key to winning games.. The Celtics are 1st in the league with a defensive rating of 105.9. The Pacers are 28th with a defensive rating of 114.7. The Celtics need to especially defend the paint as the Pacers are 5th with 49.5 points in the paint per game.
Rebound - The Celtics are 4th in the league, pulling down 46.2 rebounds per game. It is important to rebound the ball to give themselves extra possessions and to prevent the opponent from getting the same along with 2nd chance points. The pacers get 14.5 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 if they want to get a win in this game.
Stay Focused - A lack of focus can explain a lot of the Celtics problems when they struggle. They lose focus and turn the ball over time after time during stretches in the game. The Celtics had 18 turnovers against the Heat. They also lose focus and struggle to hit shots that they would usually make. The Celtics missed quite a few layups against the Heat that they should have made. At times they also lose focus on defense and miss assignments and allow opponents open shots on the perimeter and easy shots inside. The Celtics must stay focused and take care of the ball, focus on taking and making good shots, and focus on playing tough team defense.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have to come out and be aggressive right from the opening tip. They have to be aggressive on defense, driving to the basket, rebounding, diving for loose balls and just playing harder in general. They need to get off to a strong start and play hard right up until the final buzzer. They can’t let the Pacers outwork them for any period of time. They have to play with confidence and and not let up because the Pacers are shorthanded.
Home Game - The Celtics are home for the second straight game. They have the home crowd behind them to give them extra motivation. The Pacers are on the road, where they haven’t played all that well this season and where they are faced with the distractions of travel, hotel stays and a hostile crowd. The Celtics need to take advantage of playing at home and defend their home court.
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 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. Most of all, they can’t let the officiating make them lose their composure.