Watch It! - Pacers at Celtics
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.
Home Sweet Home
Tonight’s contest marks Boston’s first home game in exactly a week. They fell to the Portland Trail Blazers, 109-96, a week ago in TD Garden.
Though the Celtics dropped that game and hold a 2-3 record at home, it will surely feel good to play in front of the Garden faithful tonight. The team is coming off of a difficult three-game road trip in which it played three of the better teams in the West. That’s a challenge that can drain a team both physically and mentally. Now, as they return to familiar territory in their home arena, the C’s can return to a certain comfort level as they look to slow down the red-hot Pacers.
The George Effect
Paul George signed a max contract extension with Indiana back in September. You better believe that he’s worth every dime.
George is an up-and-coming superstar. His coming out party took place during last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, when he went toe-to-toe with LeBron James and averaged 19.4 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game and 5.1 assists per game during the series.
This 23-year-old is a do-it-all player. He’s a fantastic scorer who can get to the rim and hit the 3-point shot. He is also a tremendous defender who typically matches up with the opposing team’s top scorer.
George is the most impactful player on the Pacers. The Celtics must figure out how to withstand that impact tonight.
Boston has faced some very good frontlines thus far in the season. None of them, however, are as polished as Indiana’s.
The Pacers start two seasoned vets up front. David West is a bruising power forward who’s in his 11th NBA season. He is a two-time All-Star and he’s been to the playoffs five times. Starting alongside him is Roy Hibbert, who may be the league’s best pure center. Hibbert stands in at 7-foot-2 and leads the league with an average of 4.4 blocks per game.
The C’s will need to account for those two big men at both ends of the court. Both are more than capable scorers and they’re key pieces to one of the league’s greatest defenses.
A great shooting performance tonight from Kelly Olynyk would certainly push the Celtics in the right direction. Boston hasn’t gotten such a push from the rookie very often this season.
Tonight would be a great time for Olynyk to turn things around in that department. Should he get the call for his second consecutive start, he will be facing off against Hibbert. As noted earlier, Hibbert is the most potent shot blocker in the league right now.
Hibbert’s size and length wouldn’t only affect Olynyk; it would also affect the rest of the Celtics around the basket. A strong shooting performance by Olynyk would force Hibbert to defend him away from the basket.
Indiana’s Stingy Defense
Bostonians know all about great defense after being spoiled by it over the past six seasons. They’ll get to see another great defense on the parquet tonight.
Indiana is unquestionably the best defensive team in the league thus far in 2013-14. It leads the NBA in both opponent field goal percentage (39.5 percent) and opponent scoring (87.2 points per game).
Why are the Pacers so good? Athleticism, length and mindset. George and Hibbert are their game-changers but the rest of the team possesses all three of those characteristics as well. Putting up points against these guys is extremely difficult, so expect a low-scoring affair tonight.