Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 6:00 PM ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Game Preview: Pacers (21-5) vs Celtics (12-16)

Scott Agness | Updated: December 21, 2013, 4:30 PM

Matchup

The Pacers’ schedule eases up to end 2013 after five very challenging opponents. Much like Friday was about the return of Danny Granger, when the Boston Celtics arrive in Indy, first-year head coach Brad Stevens will garner a lot of attention locally. And for good reason.

Coach Stevens was born and raised a Hoosier, attending Zionsville High School and going on to play ball at DePauw University. In a stunning surprise this past offseason, Stevens left his successful gig at Butler to join one of the storied franchises in The Association.

With an aging team, the Celtics’ front office opted to change the direction of their team. It was time to rebuild, and let them grow under the leadership of Stevens. The Celtics completed a blockbuster deal just ahead of the draft, sending Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, and three future first-round picks. Celtics president Danny Ainge seemingly got the better end of the deal.

Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is still recovering from a torn ACL, which he suffered last season. He was recently cleared for full-contact practice, but isn’t expected to play in a game until the first of the year.

The Pacers got back to their defensive principles in a 114-81 drumming of the Houston Rockets on Friday night. After allowing nine straight teams to shoot 40 percent or better, they held the Rockets, the second-highest scoring team in the NBA, to 38 percent and a season-low point total. James Harden was slowed, Dwight Howard was kept in check and the Pacers tore this top-tier team apart.

Danny Granger played 23 minutes in his debut. He missed the first 25 games due to a calf strain. His shot was off (1-for-7) and he turned it over five times, but that’s all to be expected in his first game back.

The Pacers have a film session Saturday, where they felt like they learned more about themselves and where they saw growth in their disciplines. Then, they had a light practice with free throw shooting and about 20 minutes of game-like shooting.

The Pacers now begin their eighth set of back-to-back games, whereas the Celtics are concluding one in Indy. Boston collapsed late against the Wizards on Saturday afternoon and were outscored 22-7 over the final six minutes.

Probable Starters

George Hill

George Hill

Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson

Paul George

Paul George

David West

David West

Roy Hibbert

Roy Hibbert

Jordan Crawford

Jordan Crawford

Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley

Jeff Green

Jeff Green

Brandon Bass

Brandon Bass

Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

Injury Update

Pacers: None
Celtics: Rajon Rondo (out, torn right ACL)

Quotable

“They’re a good basketball team They’re the fourth seed right now and playing great defensively. They’ve got some shot makers on their team. I know the big name guys aren’t there anymore but … we know they are very capable, and very well coached.” – Frank Vogel on the Celtics

“We’re tightening the screws. It was a great defensive performance (Friday) night, not a good one. I was very, very impressed with a number of different elements from Paul George’s defense on James Harden to our team help defense in being in our gaps to Roy Hibbert largely handling [Dwight] Howard one-on-one, and by doing so, allowing us to take them out of the 3-point line.” – Frank Vogel

“Everybody. Everybody I think I know. I probably had like 50 text messages and voicemails, all my friends saying ‘Welcome back,’ and ‘Congratulations, you played well.’ I got a lot of encouragement from a lot of people, [including] guys from other teams.” – Danny Granger on who he heard from after playing again

“The place is special to me. … It's the best Pacers team I've ever seen in my lifetime.” – Brad Stevens on returning to Indy

Noteworthy

  • Frank Vogel was an assistant with the Celtics under Jim O’Brien from 2001-04.
  • Stevens, 37, is the youngest coach in the league but just the fifth-youngest in Celtics history behind Dave Cowens, Bill Russell, Red Auerbach, and Tom Heinsohn. At 40 years old, Vogel is the fifth-youngest in the NBA.
  • Roy Hibbert and Celtics guard Jeff Green were teammates at Georgetown from 2004-07 and remain close friends.

Last Meeting

Nov. 22: The Pacers outscored the Celtics 25-8 in the third period to roll to their eleventh win of the season, 97-82 in Boston. The win snapped a four-game losing streak to Boston. David West scored 10 of his 17 points in the third, which was more points than the home team scored in the period. The Celtics gave the ball away 23 times, to which the Pacers converted into 30 points.

Lance Stephenson recorded his second triple-double in eleven days, with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Paul George dropped a game-high 27 points, 14 of which came in the final period. Boston’s Jordan Crawford was perfect from the floor in the first half, 8-for-8, and finished with a season-high 24 points.

Broadcast Information | Find Local Listings »

TV: FOX Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Brooke Olzendam (sideline reporter/host)
Radio: FM 107.5 The Fan, AM 1070 (beginning at 7 p.m.), Pacers Radio Network – Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Slick Leonard (analyst), Kevin Lee (sideline reporter/host)

Ticket Information

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