Aaron Nesmith
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Game Preview: Pacers at Celtics

Friday, March 24 at 7:00 PM ET at TD Garden

Game Preview

If the first two games were any indication, the regular season finale between the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics could prove another classic. But this time around, with just nine games left on the schedule, a win could mean a little more for either team.

The Pacers (33-40) will make stop No. 3 of their four-game road trip on Friday when they take on the Celtics (50-23) at TD Garden.

As of Wednesday night, the Pacers were 1.5 games back of 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings. Seeds one through six will automatically make the playoffs while seven through 10 advance to the Play-In.

The Chicago Bulls (34-47) were in 10th on Wednesday, while spots nine through six were occupied by the Toronto Raptors (35-38), Atlanta Hawks (36-36), Miami Heat (39-34) and Brooklyn Nets (39-33). Out of those teams, the Pacers will just play just one of them – the Hawks this Saturday – before the regular season ends.

Boston enter the game with the second-best record in the East, trailing the Milwaukee Bucks (52-20), but are just a half game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers (49-23).

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If Indiana beats Boston, it will be the first season series won by the Pacers over the Celtics since the 2015-2016 campaign.

The teams are 1-1 thus far, with both teams winning on the road. The Pacers won 117-112 on Dec. 21 but Celtics took an overtime win, 142-138, on Feb. 23.

Indiana comes into the matchup off an impressive, season-sweeping win over the Raptors.

Rookies Andrew Nembhard and Bennedict Mathurin, who are both from Canada, shined in the win. Nembhard scored 25 points to go along with 10 assists – including making the game-clinching 3-pointers in the 35 seconds  – and Mathurin scored 15 points in his second game back from injury.

The Pacers shot 55.8 percent from the field while holding the Raptors to 43.8 percent overall and 20.6 percent from 3-point range. Six Pacers players scored in double figures.

Nembhard, the 31st overall pick in the 2022 draft, has been superb in the last six games with All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton out with a sprained ankle, averaging 17.9 points, 6.3 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game.  The rookie has scored at least 22 points in four of his last five games.

Haliburton and Chris Duarte are both questionable heading into the game against Boston.

Despite going 5-5 over their last 10 games, Boston has been among the best teams in the league all season. The Celtics started the season 21-5 before going into the All-Star break with a record of 42-17.

Boston is led by the familiar star tandem of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. This season, the two have each scored 30 points or more in the same game nine times, which is the most by any duo over the last 30 years outside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal (10 in 2000-2001, 12 in 2002-2003).

Tatum is averaging 30.1 points per game on 45.9 percent shooting, 8.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists while Brown is putting up 26.7 points on 49.2 percent shooting, 6.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists this season.

Boston also boasts the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Smart as well as Pacer point guard Malcolm Brogdon, who is considered one of the leading contenders for this year’s Sixth Man of the Year award.

The Celtics come into their game against Indiana with a Tuesday road win over the Sacramento Kings (43-29). Tatum scored 36 points in the game and Brown had 27.

In both games between the Pacers and Celtics this season, at least one player has scored more than 40 points while a player on the opposite team has dropped 30-plus points. In game one, a Pacers win, Haliburton scored 33 points and Tatum had 41. The second game saw Pacers center Myles Turner drop 40 and Tatum register 31.

After taking on the Celtics, the Pacers will conclude their four-game road trip at the Hawks on Saturday.

Projected Starters

Pacers:  G - Andrew Nembhard, G - Buddy Hield, F - Bennedict Mathurin, F - Aaron Nesmith, C - Myles Turner

Celtics: G - Marcus Smart, G - Derrick White, F - Jayson Tatum, F - Jaylen Brown, C - Al Horford

Injury Report

Pacers: Chris Duarte - questionable (sore left ankle), Tyrese Haliburton - questionable (sprained right ankle), Kendall Brown - out (right tibia stress fracture)

Celtics: Jaylen Brown - available (facial fracture/face mask), Payton Pritchard - doubtful (left heel pain), Danilo Gallinari - out (left knee ACL repair)

Last Meeting

Feb. 23, 2023:In the first game following the All-Star break, the fans at Gainbridge FIeldhouse were treated to an offensive showcase.

Unfortunately for the supporters of the Blue & Gold, the Pacers came out on the wrong side of a 142-138 overtime loss to the then-first place Celtics.

The teams were tied at 138 in overtime before Tatum hit a pair of free throws and then tipped-in a basket off the glass with 10 seconds remaining to help secure the win.

In all, there were 17 lead changes in the game.

Tatum scored 31 points while pulling down 12 rebounds to lead the Celtics, Brown added 30 points and 11 rebounds and Brogdon had 24 points off the bench. Turner led all scorers by matching his career-high of 40 points (13-for-15 FG), Haliburton collected 22 points and 14 assists and Mathurin came off the bench and scored 19 points.

Overall, the Pacers finished one 3-pointer shy of tying the franchise record for shots made from deep in a game by going 22-for-39.

Indiana outshot Boston 52 percent to 51 percent and made four more 3-pointers than the visitors. However, the Celtics won the rebounding margin 50-37 and points in the paint difference 60-44.

  • Boston owns the all-time regular season series over Indiana 105-83, including a 65-28 record at home.
  • Indiana has a record of 5-8 on the first legs of back-to-backs this season.
  • Nembhard moved into third place for most assists by a Pacers rookie in a season on Wednesday, passing Sidney Lowe (269, 1983-1984). Nembhard currently has 272 assists and trails just Chuck Person (295, 1986-1987) and Jamaal Tinsley (647, 2001-2002) in the Pacers rookie record book.
  • Mathurin, who played most of the season off the bench, has started the last two games for the Pacers since returning from an ankle injury.
Broadcast Information (TV and Radio Listings >>)

TV: Bally Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)

Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Eddie Gill (analyst), Pat Boylan (studio host)


After a four-game road trip, the Pacers will return to Gainbridge Fieldhouse to host Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, March 27 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets >>