7:30 P.M. ET
Boston: 104.7 points/100 possessions (13th)
Indiana: 101.6 points/100 possessions (23rd)
Boston: 97.5 points allowed/100 possessions (2nd)
Indiana: 103.2 points allowed/100 possessions (11th)
Probable Indiana starters: Danny Granger (SF), Tyler Hansbrough (PF), Roy Hibbert (C), Darren Collison (PG), Paul George (SG)
View From The Opposing Bench: 8 Points, 9 Seconds
Thumbnail: Give the Celtics this: they’re making the interminable stretch of the long season interesting. What should be a mid-week tuneup on the way to the playoffs is suddenly a key game for a Boston team that’s reeling after dropping three of four and slipping from the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Indiana’s won two straight games over the Knicks this week but prior to that Frank Vogel’s team had dropped eight of nine. Are they the cure for what ails the Green or another trap game? Only the leprechauns know.
There are intriguing stories with the two Boston point guards tonight:
Delonte’s Back! – For the third time this season, Delonte West returns to the Celtics lineup. West has given the Celtics only 8 games all season, and is less than 100%, by his own admission. But he’s back to stay (or so he claims) and with only 17 games left in the season, will quickly need to prove his value and find his place in the rotation, as a backup to Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. What can he give the C’s with the lingering soreness in his (non-shooting) wrist? Does he immediately displace Carlos Arroyo in the rotation? Will another Jermaine O’Neal-style setback send the wrath of Celtics Nation his way? We should start to get some answers to those questions tonight.
Rondo’s Back? – Fear and loathing has emerged in the wake of Rondo’s recent subpar performances. He’s either hurt or tired or both or just slumping, depending on who you believe. To me, he looks worn down, although his low assist totals lately are as much as function of his teammates missing open shots as they are his reluctance to attack the basket. If West can go 30 minutes a few times over the next couple weeks and Arroyo can continue to hold his own, it might be time to get Rondo some judicious rest. Particularly in the first games of back-to-backs, which would bring him back fresh to trigger the offense on the flipsides.
WHAT THE PACERS DO WELL:
Like most fringe playoff teams that fired their coaches and tried to unload half their rosters at the trading deadline, they don’t do a lot well. In their 99-88 loss to the Celtics back in December, the Pacers scrapped their way to a virtual draw on the boards, and turned the Celtics over 18 times, which kept the game close until the fourth quarter. Both teams have undergone major changes since then, but that recipe still holds true for the Pacers They’re going to have to out-effort the Celtics tonight in order to win, with a special focus on making it tough for Boston to score.
That’s a distinct possibility given the Celtics struggles as of late. Here are Boston’s unimpressive offensive efficiency ratings over the last five games:
90.8, 97.8, 93.5, 109.6, 98.9
WHAT THE PACERS DO POORLY:
Score the ball and shoot the ball. So the message for the Celtics should be clear: establish the defense early, rebound Indiana misses and push the tempo to get the easy scores that have been so elusive lately.
PLAYERS WHO MAKE ME WORRY:
Hansbrough. The Pacers’ second-year forward is thriving under Vogel and is coming off a run of strong games:
He’s going to test Kevin Garnett, who looks vulnerable lately.
PLAYERS WHO DO NOT MAKE ME WORRY:
Granger. Who can get trigger happy, often after nights when he does this:
I’d like to see Doc Rivers stretch out Jeff Green on the defensive end and see how he does against Granger. It’d give Pierce another game with short minutes, and we could get a better look at the mysterious Mr. Green, who continues to both confound and tantalize.
But mostly confound.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE FROM BOSTON TONIGHT:
It’s a long list:
Boston 110 Indiana 94