Game Preview: Pacers at Celtics
BOSTON – Home hasn’t been so sweet for the Boston Celtics (14-17) lately. They hope to change that when they host the Indiana Pacers (19-13) at 8 p.m. tonight in TD Garden.
The Celtics own a solid 9-6 mark at home but haven’t won a game in the Garden since November 19, when they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have lost two home games since then and are mired in a season-worst four-game losing streak.
Losses may be stacking up for Boston but its confidence doesn’t seem to be wavering. Rajon Rondo and Doc Rivers, the only Celtics who spoke to the entire group of media at Thursday’s practice, both conveyed that they still believe in their group of Celtics.
“I haven’t lost faith or hope in this team,” Rondo said. “I still have high expectations. I know we will turn it around.”
Rivers followed Rondo’s path by telling everyone that there are some good things coming out of these recent losses.
“It’s funny, you watch the tape (of Wednesday’s game) – there’s a lot of good things last night that got lost,” the coach said. “I thought our defensive energy was back and we did a lot of good things.
“I think we’re going to figure it out.”
The Celtics haven’t figured much of anything out over the past eight days. They have lost four consecutive games, all by double-digits, and have given up an average of 104.5 points per game in those contests.
Boston’s defense has been struggling for many reasons. Rondo singled out two of those reasons Thursday afternoon.
“I think our communication is way down,” Rondo said. “Our second and third effort – we may play defense for 20 seconds, but the last four seconds, a guard’s getting beat off the dribble, we’re giving up an offensive rebound, or we give up an uncontested shot. It’s frustrating to play defense for that long and then one of those three things happen.”
There are no excuses for allowing any of those situations to plague the C’s tonight. The Pacers are one of the hottest teams in the league, winning nine of their last 11 games, but are very underwhelming on offense. They rank 28th in the league in scoring with 91.8 PPG and shoot just 42.6 percent from the field as a team. Only two of their regulars, David West (48.8 percent) and Lance Stephenson (48.5 percent), have made more than 43.0 percent of their shots this season.
With all of that being said, this contest might stack up perfectly for the C’s. They shouldn’t have a challenging night on defense, so if they score the ball efficiently they could walk out of the Garden with a momentous victory.
Game 2 for Avery
Avery Bradley returned to the lineup Wednesday night after missing the first 30 games of the season due to offseason shoulder surgeries. He played only 19 minutes, but that number should rise tonight.
Rivers should allow Bradley to log about 25 minutes tonight, which would be approaching the number he’s likely to average this season. That means that the energetic defender will be able to make much more of an impact on this game, and it will also allow Rivers to hone in on the rotations and minute distribution he intends to use in the long term.
Get Terry Some Shots
One of Boston’s largest issues this season has been its inability to get Jason Terry enough shots. Terry took just five shots Wednesday night and he’s averaging just 9.2 attempts this season, which is his lowest number since his rookie season in 1999-2000. Rivers was emphatic Thursday afternoon in saying that the Celtics need to change that.
“When Jason Terry is on the floor you’ve gotta run plays for Jason Terry,” Rivers said. “I mean, what else would you have him on the floor for? To play defense? That’s something we talk about all the time and it’s not getting through, so I told them [Wednesday] night that I will be the play caller for that group for a while now.”
This means that Rivers will be playing point guard from the sideline, and he really wants to get the ball into Terry’s hands.
Contain Paul George
Danny Granger has been out of Indiana’s lineup all season long due to a sore left knee. You’d think the Pacers would struggle as a result, but that’s not the case thanks to Paul George’s emergence as a star.
George has been playing as well as anyone in the league over the last month. He averaged 18.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game in 15 December games. George began January on an even better note, logging 29 points, 14 rebounds and three assists against the Wizards Wednesday night.
There is no doubt that George has become the go-to scorer for Indiana. He’s attempting more than 15 shots a night since the beginning of December and he’s shooting very well from all over the court. Indiana as a team may not be a terror on offense, but George sure is.