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Boston Celtics (27-7) at Indiana Pacers (20-14) Game #35 1/6/24

The Celtics head out on the road to take on the Pacers for 2 straight games in Indiana.

Boston Celtics v Indiana Pacers: Quarterfinals - 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Celtic visit the Indiana Pacers for the 3rd of 5 games this season. The Celtics won on 11/1 for the In Season Tournament while the Pacers won on 12/4 to advance in the Tournament. They will play again in Indiana in just two days on 11/8 and a 5th and final time in Boston on 1/30. The Celtics won the series 2-1 last season, winning 1 in Boston and 1 in Indiana and losing one game in Boston.

Both teams are playing on the second night of back to back games. Both teams won win blow outs. The Pacers won 150-116 while the Celtics won 126-97. Starters from both teams played light minutes. Pacers starters played between 22 and 25 minutes while Celtics starters played between 23 and 26 minutes. The Celtics are 4-1 on the second night of back to back games while the Pacers are 1-4 on the second night of back to back games.

The Celtics remain first in the East. They are 2.5 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee, 4 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia, 7 ahead of 4th place Miami and 7 ahead of 5th place Indiana. They are 10-7 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 21-4 against other Eastern Conference teams and they are coming off a win in their last game.

The Pacers are 5th in the East, tied with Miami who holds the tie breaker. They are 3 behind 3rd place Philadephia and 7 behind first place Boston. They are 1.5 ahead of 6th place Orlando, 7th place Cleveland and 8th place New York. They are 10-7 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 17-10 against Eastern Conference opponents and they have won their last 6 games.

The Celtics came home from a 2 game road trip to play one game at home against the Jazz and are now on the road for 2 against the Pacers in Indiana. They have Minnesota at home next and then Milwaukee on the road then Houston at home and Toronto on the road. They are in the midst of a 5 games in 7 days stretch along with playing on the second night of back to backs in this one.

Al Horford sat out Friday’s game against the Jazz for rest so he is likely to play in this game but as I write this, he is still listed as questionable. Assuming that the Celtics don’t sit players because of the back to back, the Celtics are all expected to play. For the Pacers, Aaron Nesmith turned his ankle against the Hawks on Friday and did not return to the game. He is questionable for this game. Andrew Nembhard has missed 2 games with back stiffness and is questionable for this game.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Delano Banton
Oshae Brissett
Sam Hauser
Al Horford
Luke Kornet
Svi Mykhailiuk
Payton Pritchard
Lamar Stevens
Jordan Walsh

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Nathan Knight
Neemias Queta

Injuries/Out
None

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Pacers Starters

Pacers Reserves
Benedict Matherin
Isaiah Jackson
James Johnson
TJ McConnell
Andrew Nembhard
Buddy Hield
Jordan Nwora
Ben Sheppard
Obi Toppin
Jarace Walker

Two Way Players
Kendall Brown
Oscar Tshiebwe
Isaiah Wong

Injuries/Out
Aaron Nesmith (ankle) questionable
Andrew Nembhard (back) questionable

Head Coach
Rick Carlisle

Key Matchups

Jrue Holiday vs Tyrese Haliburton
Haliburton is playing very well for the Pacers and will be tough to slow down. He is averaging 24.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 12.7 assists, and 1.0 assists per game. He is shooting 50.1% from the field and 40.8% from beyond the arc. Jrue is coming off a good game against the Jazz and will need a good game on both ends of the court in this game for the Celtics to win. They have to especially slow down Haliburton.

Kristaps Porzingis vs Myles Turner
Turner is averaging 17.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 2.2 blocks per game. He is shooting 52.8% from the field and 35.7% from beyond the arc. Turner is a good rim protector and so the Celtics have to be aware of his presence in the paint. They also have to defend him both in the paint and on the perimeter as he is a threat to score both inside and out.

Honorable Mention
Jaylen Brown vs Aaron Nesmith
Nesmith always seems to play his best games against his former team. He is averaging 11.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 50.1% from the field and a league 2nd best 47.5% from beyond the arc. He is questionable due to turning his ankle on Friday night but if he plays, the Celtics definitely need to pay attention to him on defense.

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 3rd in the league with a defensive rating of 110.2. The Pacers are 28th with a defensive rating of 120.3. 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 2nd in fast break points (17.7). The Pacers are coming off a game in which they scored 150 points. The Celtics must defend them well to prevent that kind of scoring explosion in this one.

Rebound - The Celtics are 1st in the league, pulling down 47.3 rebounds per game. The Pacers are 29th with 40.5 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.

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.

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 Pacers move the ball and are first with 30.6 assists per game while the Celtics are 17th with 26.1 assists per game. The Celtics can’t depend on iso ball and instead, 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 as the Pacers average 18.3 points off turnovers per game.

X-Factors
On The Road - The Celtics will play 3 games on the road against the Pacers this season. They lost the In Season Tournament knock out round game in Indiana and need to remember that and come out strong in this one. The Pacers are playing well at home with a 10-7 record at home. The Celtics can’t allow the distractions of travel and a hostile crowd to take away from their focus on the game.

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.

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