4/1 Game Preview: Pacers at Celtics
When they last faced the Indiana Pacers in mid-March, the Boston Celtics extended a season-high winning streak that helped make them a serious contender for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The Pacers now hope to return the favor by dealing the Celtics their fourth straight home defeat Wednesday night when they resume a critical four-game stretch with postseason implications.
Boston (33-41) has taken two of three meetings with Indiana (32-42) after Tyler Zeller had 18 points and Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Brandon Bass each added 16 in a 93-89 road win March 14.
That was part of a five-game run that left the Celtics in a three-way tie with the Pacers and Miami for seventh place. However, they've since gone 3-5 to fall behind eighth-place Brooklyn following the Nets' 111-106 home win over Indiana on Tuesday.
Coming off Monday's 116-104 victory at Charlotte, Boston will try to at least stay a half-game behind Brooklyn while winning consecutive games for the first time since its winning streak. The Nets make a short trip to face the Knicks on Wednesday.
Bradley, the team's defensive stopper, led the way with 30 points Monday and Evan Turner had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists as the Celtics shot 50.6 percent to move 1 1/2 games up on the Hornets.
"We knew we needed this game," said Turner, a former Pacer. "Every game is important, so we came and toughed it out."
Following an untimely six-game losing streak that began with their loss to Boston, the Pacers had won two of three before their quest to qualify for the postseason for a fifth straight season suffered a blow Tuesday.
George Hill finished with 28 points and David West scored 14 to go along with six boards and six assists, but Indiana fell 1 1/2 games behind the surging Nets. After visiting Boston, the Pacers will host Charlotte and seventh-place Miami this weekend.
"It feels like we're kind of giving the season away one game at a time so we've got to forget about it now and focus on (Wednesday), bring it and try to get a win," Hill said.
Hill, averaging 22.0 points over his past 10 games, had a season-high 30 in his only meeting with the Celtics on March 14.
C.J. Miles, though, could be sidelined after spraining his right ankle early in the first quarter Tuesday. It could be a big loss since Miles had totaled 54 points while hitting 9 of 14 from 3-point range in his previous two games.
Miles was one of several key players who did not play in a 101-98 loss at Boston on Nov. 7. Roy Hibbert had 22 points and 11 rebounds in that contest before finishing with 19 and 11 in a 107-103 overtime home win Jan. 9.
Bradley has totaled 39 points in the last two matchups for the Celtics, though Turner has scored 13 on 4-of-22 shooting.
Boston has also shot just 39.3 percent - including a 27.3 mark from 3-point range - while dropping three straight at home.
Indiana, though, has allowed 109.2 points per game and a 47.1 percentage from beyond the arc in its last six after giving up 96.4 points on 34.1 percent from long range heading into that stretch.