Watch It! - Celtics at Pacers
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers meet at 7 p.m. tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Green’s Impact on Defense
Jeff Green has proven to be a capable scorer against the league’s top defense. He has averaged 19.3 points per game against Indiana through three games this season. Boston would love to see Green score at that level again tonight, but what may be even more important is what he is able to do on defense.
Green has defended Paul George for the majority of these teams’ first three meetings but has been unsuccessful in slowing the All-Star down. George has averaged 25.3 PPG against the Celtics this season while shooting 50.9 percent from the field.
Boston cannot allow George to score that many points with that level of efficiency if it hopes to win tonight’s game. The Celtics need Green to be a defensive force against Indiana’s top offensive weapon.
The Reeling Pacers
Indiana remains atop the Eastern Conference standings but it isn’t playing like a No. 1 seed. The Pacers have lost a season-high four consecutive games, including three straight by double-digits.
Indiana’s league-best defense has been nothing of the sort during this losing streak. The Pacers have allowed their last four opponents to shoot 48 percent from the field and an incredible 46.5 percent from long range. Those numbers are up from season averages of 41.9 percent and 34.6 percent.
Defense, however, isn’t the only area in which the Pacers are struggling. They’ve also failed to score with any efficiency of late. Indiana has shot just 43.9 percent from the field over its last four games while averaging fewer than 91 PPG.
Sharing the Basketball
Boston’s offense had never looked as pretty this season as it did on Sunday night. It shimmered throughout a 118-111 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Those 118 points fell just two points shy of the team’s season high in scoring. The points, however, don’t do the offensive performance justice.
The Celtics shared the ball better than they had all season, as they dished out a season-best 38 assists on 47 made field goals. As a result, the C’s shot 48.5 percent from the field and made 10 3-pointers.
Rajon Rondo was the orchestrator of the offense while dishing out a season-high 18 assists of his own. He set the offensive tone for the Celtics, a tone that was highlighted by sharing the basketball.
Boston’s Bench Combo
Many had been wondering for the past week and a half why Brad Stevens has been opting to bring Jared Sullinger, who has started 41 games this season, off the bench. He revealed the reason why after Sunday night’s win.
“Kelly (Olynyk) and Sully coming off the bench is becoming not only a pretty skilled group together,” Stevens said, “but also maturing from the standpoint of understanding the NBA game and really playing at this speed.”
Stevens seems to be dead on with that comment considering how the duo has performed of late. Sullinger and Olynyk have combined to average 26.7 PPG and 14 RPG while coming off the bench together for the last three games.
Rondo vs. Hill
The meeting between these two teams 10 days ago was the first of the season that featured Rondo. Rondo finished the contest with 12 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.
Boston’s point guard strung together a solid game that night but did so against Indiana’s backup point guard. C.J. Watson started in place of the injured George Hill and played more than 28 minutes.
Hill has since returned and is coming off of his first 20-point performance in more than a month. The point guard, who is averaging 11 PPG and 3.4 APG this season, scored 20 against Dallas on Sunday.
Rondo’s night is likely to be made tougher by the presence of Hill. Hill isn’t an overwhelming offensive presence, but he can change the game with his speed and is also a solid defender.