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Boston Celtics (28-7) at Indiana Pacers (20-15) Game #36 1/8/24

The Celtics take on the Pacers in Indiana for the second time in three nights.

Boston Celtics v Indiana Pacers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

For the second straight game and the second time in 3 days, the Celtics face the Pacers in Indiana. This is the 4th of 5 games between these two teams this season. They will play for the 5th and final time in Boston on January 30. The Celtics lead the series 2-1 with a win in Boston and one in Indiana and the loss coming in Indiana in the knock out round of the In Season Tournament.

The Celtics remain first in the East. With a win on Saturday and a loss by both Milwaukee and Philadelphia, the Celtics are 3.5 games ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee, 5 games ahead of 3rd place Philadelphia, 7.5 ahead of 4th place New York and 8 ahead of 5th place Miami. They are 11-7 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 22-4 against other Eastern Conference teams and they have won their last 2 games.

The Pacers are 7th in the East after their loss to the Celtics on Saturday. They are tied with 5th place Miami, 6th place Orlando, and 8th place Cleveland. They are half a game behind 4th place New York and 8 behind first place Boston. They are 5.5 games ahead of 11th place Atlanta. They are 10-8 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 17-11 against Eastern Conference opponents and they lost their last game after winning their previous 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 their second straight game 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 playing in their 3rd game in 4 days and also in the midst of a 5 games in 7 days stretch. The Pacers are also playing in their 3rd game in 4 nights.

Both teams have a trio of players who are questionable or out for this game. Kristaps Porzingis was upgraded from questionable to available after getting poked in the eye in Saturday’s game. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Jayson Tatum has been downgraded to out for ankle injury management. Sam Hauser is also out due to a shoulder impingement. I’m going to guess that Al Horford starts in place of Tatum but I could be wrong.

For the Pacers, Bruce Brown is questionable with a bone bruise on his knee. He has missed the past 5 games but is on track to possibly return for this game. Andrew Nembhard has missed the last 3 games due to back tightness. He is also listed as questionable for this game. Isaiah Jackson missed Saturday’s game with a finger laceration. He is questionable for this game. All 3 are considered a game time decision.

Probable Celtics Starters

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

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Nathan Knight
Neemias Queta

Injuries/Out
Jayson Tatum (ankle) out
Sam Hauser (shoulder) out
Kristaps Porzingis (eye) available

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Pacers Starters

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

Two Way Players
Kendall Brown
Oscar Tshiebwe
Isaiah Wong

Injuries/Out
Bruce Brown (knee) questionable
Andrew Nembhard (back) questionable
Isaiah Jackson (finger) questionable

Head Coach
Rick Carlisle

Key Matchups

Jrue Holiday vs Tyrese Haliburton
Haliburton is averaging 24.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 10.0 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He is shooting 49.6% from the field and 40.4% from beyond the arc. In 2 games against Boston this season, he averaged 21.5 points, 8 rebounds, 10 assists and 1.5 steals per game. On Saturday, he was held to 17 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 1.2 steals. He shot 29.4% from the field and 22.2% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to play tough defense on him in this game to limit him once again.

Kristaps Porzingis vs Myles Turner
Turner is averaging 17.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 2.1 blocks per game. He is shooting 53.3% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. Against Boston this season, Turner is averaging 12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2 assists. On Saturday, he finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. He shot 41% from the field and 14.3% from three. Turner is a good rim protector and so the Celtics have to be aware of his presence in the paint. If Porzingis is out for this game, then Al Horford may get the start here.

Honorable Mention
Oshae Brissett vs Bennedict Mathurin
Mathurin is averaging 14.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2 assists per game. He shoots 46.8% from the field and 37.4% from beyond the arc. Against Boston this season, he averaged 14.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. On Saturday, he finished with a team high 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. He shot 50% from the field but didn’t make a 3 pointer.

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 126.8 points per game. The Celtics are 2nd in the league with a defensive rating of 109.9. The Pacers are 26th with a defensive rating of 119.8. 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 1st in fast break points (17.9). The Celtics must defend them well to prevent a scoring explosion from the Pacers.

Rebound - The Celtics are 1st in the league, pulling down 47.8 rebounds per game. The Pacers are 29th with 40.4 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. They out rebounded the Pacers 56-38 on Saturday and they have to dominate the boards once again to win this game.

Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics turned the ball over 18 times on Saturday, which led to 24 points for the Pacers. The Celtics have to take better care of the ball in this game. They have to move the ball and avoid too much iso ball but they have to make careful passes to avoid turnovers. They also need to take more care when they dribble and move with the ball.

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 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.

X-Factors
On The Road - The Celtics are playing in their 3rd game on the road against the Pacers this season. They lost the In Season Tournament knock out round game in Indiana and they won the game on Saturday. The Pacers have a 10-8 record at home while the Celtics are 11-7 on the road. The Celtics can’t allow the distractions of travel and a hostile crowd to take away from their focus on the game.

3 Games in 4 Nights - After both teams playing in back to back games on Friday and Saturday, both teams are now playing in their 3rd game in 4 nights. Fatigue could come in to play down the stretch for both teams. With Jayson Tatum and Sam Hauser both out, it may add to the fatigue of having just one day off in 4 nights. Hopefully the Celtics depth can come through for them.

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? On Saturday, the Celtics didn’t take a single free throw in the first half while the Pacers took 13. The free throws evened out in the second half, but the officiating definitely favored the home team in that game. 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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