Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (34-21) vs. Celtics (30-24)

Saturday, April 7 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 7 p.m.

SCOUTING THE PACERS: Coming off one of their biggest wins of the season, the Pacers have to gather themselves for another tough game. Indiana built a 24-point lead in the third quarter and then hung on for a 103-98 victory over Oklahoma City before a sellout crowd Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It was the second time in their four-game home win streak the Pacers have beaten one of the NBA's top teams, as they knocked off Miami on March 26. The Pacers have won four in a row overall to climb to third in the East, but know the perch is tenuous. They're up 1½ games on fifth-place Atlanta and two on sixth-place Orlando. Boston holds the fourth seed because it has the Atlantic Division lead, but the Celtics are only one game up on the seventh-place Sixers.

Danny Granger continued his late-season surge with 26 points against the Thunder, 13 in the fourth quarter. He has averaged 24.7 points and shot 59 percent from the 3-point line in the last six games. One of the curiosities of the current win streak is the team's 3-point shooting. Granger has shot 13-of-21 (.619) but the rest of the Pacers have gone 9-of-47 (.191). Indiana has outscored opponents by 33 from the free-throw line and outrebounded them by 17 in the streak. Roy Hibbert had 21 points and 12 rebounds against the Thunder, his 15th double-double of the season and his third game of at least 20 points and 10 boards.

SCOUTING THE CELTICS: The faces haven't changed but this is not the same Boston team the Pacers faced three times in January. The Celtics limped into the All-Star break at 15-17, third in the Atlantic Division and a tenuous eighth in the Eastern Conference. They've gone 15-7 since and taken the division lead from Philadelphia. Boston has done it with its trademark defense, holding 11 consecutive opponents to less than 100 points (and an average of 86.2).

Paul Pierce has carried the offense and was the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for March, averaging 22.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Though Ray Allen is back after missing six games with an ankle sprain, Avery Bradley has played well as a starter, averaging 13 points and shooting 54 percent from the field. Allen came off the bench in a 93-86 loss to the Bulls Thursday, just the fifth time in his career he did not start.

KEY MATCHUP: In the Pacers' two victories over the Celtics, Pierce was a relative non-factor, totaling 31 points on 8 of 29 shooting (.276). In Boston's win, he racked up 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Pierce is one of those guys who can lull you to sleep, then explode and take over a game for 8-10 minutes. Granger cannot afford any such defensive lapses.

QUOTE MARKS: "They have guys that can shoot, we've got to watch Ray Allen in the corner for threes, Paul Pierce has been playing really well the past few games so we have our hands full." - Hibbert on the Celtics

INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, none are reported. For the Celtics, Jermaine O’Neal (left wrist surgery) is out, while Mickael Pietrus (head injury) is day-to-day.

TICKETS: Buy now

BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brook Olzendam hosting the pregame show starting at 6:30. The radio broadcast will air on WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Bob "Slick" Leonard.

INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.

 

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