Boston just managed to sneak over the line against the Wizards on Thursday, winning 110-104 in an overtime thriller. Kyrie Irving was instrumental in the win, adding 28 points to go with six assists.
With the win, the Celtics retained their one game buffer in first place in the east over Toronto. They are 40-16.
On Friday they will host a 30-25 Pacers team which flew to New Orleans only to have their scheduled Wednesday game postponed due to moisture on the court. The postponement means that Indiana, sitting at sixth place in the conference, will have had a three day break in which to rest up for this game, albeit one in which they have travelled twice.
Three keys to the game
3-point shooting - Both of these sides are in the top seven in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage. Indiana are more selective with their shots, taking just 24.9 per game, while Boston takes 31.5 and hits about the same percentage as the Pacers.
History - Boston have been dominant against Indiana for the past couple of seasons. In two games this season between the sides, the Celtics have won both, while they also swept the season series 3-0 in 2016/17. Indiana can take some heart in the fact that none of these games have been blowouts though; all five have been by 10 points or less.
Indiana scoring fast - The Pacers score a lot of their points through fast break points and turnovers - 18.1 and 15 respectively to have them top five in the league in both categories. Boston, though, defend both these areas well. They allow just 15.1 points off turnovers, seventh best in the league, and a measly 9.7 fast break points a night, fourth best in the league.
Matchup to watch
Myles Turner vs Al Horford - These two won’t start on each other, with Brad Stevens opting to start Aron Baynes at the five and Horford at the four lately, but Baynes doesn’t play a huge amount of minutes and Horford invariably spends a lot of time at the center position. When they do matchup against one another, it will be an intriguing battle between two unique bigs who love to stretch the floor. Turner has an almost entirely outside offensive game, relying largely on pick-and-pops to score, and is a capable shot blocker, while Horford stretches the floor with an ability to shoot and pass, and can also score inside. Turner is averaging 13.5 points per game but has been better than that of late, and also contributes 2.1 blocks a night. Horford is putting up 13.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.1 blocks, enough to earn him a spot in this year’s all-star game.
Boston Celtics predicted starting lineup
PG - Kyrie Irving | SG - Jayden Brown | SF - Jayson Tatum | PF - Al Horford | C - Aron Brynes
Indiana Pacers predicted starting lineup
PG - Cory Joseph | SG - Victor Oladipo | SF - Bojan Bogdanovic | PF - Thaddeus Young | C - Myles Turner
Irving has been a thorn in the Pacers’ side in the two matchups between these sides this season. He has shot 53.5% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc on the way to an average of 27.5 points, and has been a major reason for the Celtics two victories in these games.
Horford has been productive in his 30 career games against the Pacers. In these matchups, he averages 14.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.3 blocks a night.
Oladipo did everything he could to get the Pacers over the line the last time these sides met, shooting 13-23 on his way to 38 points while also grabbing three steals.
Indiana have been given a four point head start in this game, and Boston are a good bet to cover this. With Oladipo having missed a game earlier in the week due to illness, his productivity may be down, and at home the Celtics should have enough firepower to cover this line.
Assuming Oladipo gets up for this game, Indiana are certainly a chance, and the game should be in the balance well into the last quarter. They are a solid unit at both ends of the floor, and will be able to keep pace with the Celtics.
With two all-stars on the floor though, Boston will be too good. They have an undeniable record against the Pacers in recent years, and their home court advantage is significant against a team which struggles on the road. They’ll run away with this in the last four or five minutes, and end up 102-96 winners.
The game will be broadcast locally on NBCSB and Fox Sports Indiana. Tip-off is at 7:30pm ET.