After their previous two games being postponed by the NBA, the Indiana Pacers finally returned to action on Wednesday. They ended up losing 111-107 to the Golden State Warriors.
It has been a struggle for the Celtics to win games as of late. Boston is entering this matchup on a three game losing streak and has lost four of their last five games. In their previous outing, the Atlanta Hawks came out on top 127-112.
Both the Celtics and Pacers are sorely in need of building momentum in the win column. A win in this game could help to begin a turnaround prior to the NBA All-Star break.
Here are the particulars on Friday night's game:
- Who: Indiana Pacers (15-15) vs. Boston Celtics (16-16)
- When: 7:30 p.m. ET, Friday, Feb. 26.
- Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts.
- Latest Line: Most oddsmakers consider the Celtics as being 2.5-point favorites for this matchup.
- Standings: The Pacers have remained in the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference standings but hold just a half-game lead over the Toronto Raptors. The Celtics sit at 9th in the conference and are just one game behind Indiana.
- Series history: Boston leads the all-time series, 101-81.
- Last meeting: Both teams previously faced off on Dec. 29, 2020, in a matchup that featured the Pacers winning with 116-111 being the final score. Victor Oladipo had one of his top final performances with Indiana as he chipped in 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists.
- Projected Celtics starters: Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis, Tristan Thompson.
- Projected Pacers starters: Malcolm Brogdon, Justin Holiday, Doug McDermott, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner.
- TV: ESPN, Fox Sports Indiana.
- Announcers: FOX Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (studio host), ESPN - Ryan Ruocco (play-by-play), Doris Burke (analyst), Cassidy Hubbarth (sideline reporter)
- Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Eddie Gill (analyst), Pat Boylan (sideline reporter/host)
Here are three things to watch during Friday's game:
1. Possible Statement Game?
Neither the Celtics nor Pacers have managed to achieve much success in the win column as of late. Only the Cleveland Cavaliers have a worse record than Boston in the last 10 games and Indiana has just one more win than them in this stretch.
There has been numerous public comments from Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge about how this team is not a championship contender. This seems to be a tactic to motivate the group.
Ainge has gone as far to say that he's been close to making some trades lately, too. If the threat of being traded doesn't bring some motivation to players then it's difficult to envision there being much that can. Will it work?
2. Celtics' Stagnant Offense
One of the main catalysts in the Celtics' offensive struggles lies in how stagnant it has become. As ESPN's Zach Lowe pointed out, Boston ranks 28th in assist rate and that's substantially worse than a few seasons ago.
The Celtics operate as though Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can carry a successful offense in ways that are reminiscent to the Brooklyn Nets' superstars. They simply are not at that level...yet, at least. As a result, Boston's points per possession output ranks just 15th in the league.
There could be a greater emphasis on the Celtics moving the ball after Danny Ainge called their stagnant offensive style out in a radio interview. The Pacers will need to be prepared for it.
3. Matchup Decisions
The Celtics will be getting Tristan Thompson back into their lineup for this game. Boston will be able to match up better with the Pacers' frontcourt players as a result. They're expected to go big with Daniel Theis at the four spot.
On the other hand, it will be much easier matchup for the Pacers to face two big men with neither being one of the NBA's elite than to have to run around a small ball group with Jayson Tatum at the four spot.
The Pacers will need to decide what they will do to slow down the Celtics' talented perimeter scorers. Doug McDermott will have to be tasked with guarding one of Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum and that could be a real issue.