The Celtics host the Indiana Pacers for the 5th and final game between them this season. These two teams played an extra game this season due to the mid season tournament. The series is tied 2-2 right now with the Celtics winning one game in Boston and one in Indiana and the Pacers winning 2 games in Indiana. This is the rubber match. The Pacers have not won the series between these two teams since 2015-16. The Celtics won the series 2-1 last season.
The Celtics remain 1st in the East. They are 4 games ahead of the 2nd place Bucks, 6 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia, 6 games ahead of 4th place New York, 6.5 games ahead of 5th place Cleveland, and 9 games ahead of 6th place Indiana. The Celtics are 21-2 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 24-6 against Eastern Conference teams. They are coming off a win in their last game.
The Pacers are 6th in the East. They are 9 games behind 1st place Boston, 3 games behind 4th place New York and 2.5 games behind 5th place Cleveland. They are 2.5 games ahead of 7th place Miami and 8th place Orlando and dropping into a play in spot. They are 8 games ahead of 11th place Brooklyn and dropping out of the play off picture completely. The Pacers are 11-11 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 21-11 against Eastern teams and they have won their last 3 games.
The Celtics are playing in the 3rd game of a 7 game home stand. They lost the first game 115-96 to the Clippers. They then won the second game over the Pelicans. They will host the Lakers, Grizzlies, Hawks and Wizards to finish up the home stand. They then play at Miami to close out that series. Next up is a home and home series against the Nets before playing at Chicago and New York. The Celtics are playing on the 2nd night of back to back games. They are 6-2 on the 2nd night and 3-0 when the 2nd game is at home.
The Pacers are coming off a 4 game home stand where they went 3-1, losing to Denver and beating Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Memphis. They are playing in the first of 2 straight games on the road. They will play at New York on Thursday. They will then play back to back as they host Sacramento on Friday. They will go on the road again to take on the Knicks and then head home to play the Rockets and then the Warriors before another 4 game road trip.
Al Horford was questionable going into Monday’s game but he played in that game and so I would imagine that he will miss this game. Kristaps Porzingis was active in Monday’s shoot around but was out for Monday’s game against the Pelicans and so I’m thinking he will play in this one. Luke Kornet missed Monday’s game with a hamstring strain and is questionable for this game.
For the Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton missed 10 of the last 11 games and has been out since he strained his hamstring against the Celtics in their last meeting. He is expected to make his return in this game. TJ McConnell is out for this game with an Achilles injury. Myles Turner missed Sunday’s game with a back strain and is questionable for this game. Benedict Mathurin is questionable with a toe injury. Jalen Smith is questionable due to back stiffness. If both Turner and Smith are out, Isaiah Jackson should get the start. All are a game time decision.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Al Horford (neck) out
Kristaps Porzingis (ankle) questionable
Luke Kornet (hamstring) questionable
Probable Pacers Starters
Two Way Players
Tyrese Haliburton (ankle) probable
TJ McConnell (Achilles) out
Myles Turner (back) questionable
Benedict Mathurin (toe) questionable
Jalen Smith (back) questionable
Jrue Holiday vs Tyrese Haliburton
Haliburton is averaging 23.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 12.6 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 49.6% from the field and 40.0% from beyond the arc. In 3 games against Boston this season, he averaged 16.7 points, 6 rebounds, 8.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He shot 45% from the field and 34.8% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to play tough defense on him in this game to limit him once again.
Jayson Tatum vs Pascal Siakam
This is the Celtics first game against the Pacers since their trade for Pascal Siakam. This gives the Pacers another solid scorer that the Celtics need to defend. Siakam is averaging 22.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game. He is shooting 52.9% from the field and 32.3% from beyond the arc. In his games against the Celtics this season (on the Raptors) Siakam averaged 21 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He shot 48.5% from the field and 12.5% from beyond the arc.
Jaylen Brown vs Aaron Nesmith
Nesmith has found a home with the Pacers and always tries hard to play his best against his former team. He is averaging 12.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 51.5% from the field and 445.9% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics so far, he has averaged 12 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.0 assists. He shot 45.2% from the field and 23.8% from three.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is the key to winning every single game and especially against the Pacers as they lead the league with 124.8 points per game. The Celtics are 2nd in the league with a defensive rating of 110.6. The Pacers are 26th with a defensive rating of 119.4. 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 as they are 4th in fast break points (16.8). The Celtics must defend them both in the paint and on the perimeter. They are 5th in 3 point percentage (38.2) and they are first in points in the paint (57.2).
Rebound - The Celtics are 1st in the league, pulling down 47.5 rebounds per game. The Pacers are 29th with 41.0 rebounds per game. It is important for the Celtics 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. In their two wins, the Celtics out rebounded the Pacers 113-69. They have to continue dominating the Pacers on the boards to get a win here.
Play Hard 48 Minutes - The Celtics have to start out strong and keep playing hard through the second and third quarters and then finish strong. They can’t afford a slow start and they also can’t let up as they go through the second and third quarters. They can’t let the Pacers get a big lead in the beginning and they also can’t let the Pacers out-play them at the end of the game. They have to commit to being aggressive and playing hard and playing team ball for all 4 quarters.
Stay Focused on Playing the Right Way - The Celtics have got to come into his game focused on taking good shots and if the 3’s aren’t falling they need to take the ball inside. They have to focus on moving the ball carefully and not over dribbling and not playing hero ball. They need to make the extra pass and find the open man. They also need to avoid driving into a crowd and making careless passes as the Pacers are 3rd with 18.4 points off turnovers per game. They have to play hard, play as a team, play tough defense and keep their focus on playing the right way.
X-Factors Back to Back at Home - The Celtics are home once again for the 3rd straight game. 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. However, the Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games and so fatigue may come into play.
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.
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