The Celtics host the Indiana Pacers for the first of 4 meetings this season. They will meet again in Boston on January 30. They will meet twice in Indiana on January 6 and January 8. The Celtics won the series last season 2-1. They won one game in Boston and one in Indiana while the Pacers won their only game in the series in Boston. The Celtics are 106-83 all time overall and 66-28 all time in games in Boston.
So far this season, the Celtics have alternated one game on the road and one game at home. After this home game, however, they will go on a 3 game road trip that will take them through Brooklyn, Minnesota, and Philadelphia. The Pacers have also alternated home, away, home and away games. After this game on the road they will return home for a 5 game home stand.
The Celtics have won their first 3 games over the Knicks, Heat and Wizards. The Pacers have won 2 games over the Wizards and the Cavaliers and then lost 112-105 to the Bulls on Monday. Last season the Celtics finished 57-25 overall and 34-18 in the East. The Pacers finished last season 35-47 overall and 24-28 in the East. The Pacers have added some championship DNA with Bruce Brown along with Obi Toppin from the Knicks and 3 rookies. They lost Oshae Brissett to the Celtics and Chris Duarte to the Kings.
Two Way player Neemias Queta is once again on the injury list with a foot injury. He is listed as doubtful. For the Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton is questionable after twisting an ankle in Monday’s game. Benedict Mathurin is also questionable after injuring his elbow in Monday’s game. Jalen Smith is also questionable with a knee sprain. All three players are considered to be a game time decision.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Neemias Queta (foot) doubtful
Probable Pacers Starters
Two Way Players
Jalen Smith (knee) questionable
Tyrese Haliburton (ankle) questionable
Benedict Mathurin (elbow) questionable
Jrue Holiday vs Tyrese Haliburton
Haliburton is averaging 20 points, 5.3 rebounds, 12.3 assists and 1.0 steal per game. He is shooting 45.8% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc. If Haliburton can’t play due to the ankle injury, TJ McConnell is likely to get the start in his place. McConnell is averaging 6 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. He is shooting 71.4% from the field and has not shot a 3 pointer as yet.
Kristaps Porzingis vs Myles Turner
Turner is averaging 17 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 2.3 blocks per game. He is shooting 50% from the field and 26.7% from beyond the arc. Turner is a very good rim protector and hopefully Porzingis can draw him out of the paint.
Jaylen Brown vs Benedict Mathurin
Mathurin is averaging 15.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2 assists per game. He is shooting 41.7% from the field and 30.8% from beyond the arc. He is dealing with an elbow injury and is questionable. If he can’t play, Buddy Hield will likely start in his place. Hield is averaging 11.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. He is shooting 39.4% from the field and 40.9% from beyond the arc. Whichever one starts, they will need to deal with Jaylen Brown, who has been playing very well for the Celtics.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to winning every single game and if they hope to win a championship, it will be with tough defense. The Celtics are 11th in the league with a defensive rating of 107.3. The Pacers are 14th with a defensive rating of 110.6. The Celtics need to continue to make defense their identity and their priority. The Celtics have to play tough defense to prevent the Pacers from getting out on the break and getting open shots.
Rebound - The Celtics are 2nd in the league, pulling down 50.7 rebounds per game. The Pacers are 8th with 48.7 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. 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 on the 50-50 balls. They have to be the team that wants it more and play like it. The Pacers win games by playing harder than their opponents. The Celtics have to play hard for 48 minutes and not build a lead and then let up or start slow and then have to play catch up. They need to be more aggressive from start to finish.
Value Every Game - In the past, the Celtics have lost to teams that they should have beat because they didn’t take teams seriously. Jaylen Brown explained that being talented invites a team to be complacent and lazy. The Celtics can not approach games thinking they will win without having to play hard because every team is going to give them their best shot and if they want to win a championship they have to take every team seriously and approach every game as if it is a playoff game. They can’t take any games off.
Home Game - The Celtics are home once again before they head out on a 3 game road trip. They have the home crowd behind them to give them extra motivation. The Pacers are on the road 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.