The Boston Celtics (50-23, 38-34-1 ATS) are back home to battle the Indiana Pacers (33-40, 39-34 ATS). Boston is coming off three day’s rest following a huge win against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night, ending their six-game road trip at 4-2. The Pacers are coming off a big win for their play-in hopes, defeating the Toronto Raptors 118-114 on Wednesday. The season series is tied 1-1. According to online sportsbook FanDuel, the Celtics are 12-point favorites.
Point Spread: Boston Celtics -12
O/U: 234.5 points
ML: Celtics -770, Pacers +540
Payton Pritchard (heel) is a game time decision. Joe Mazzulla said Pritchard went through a live workout on Thursday, and is expecting him to return before the season ends. Aside from him and Danilo Gallinari, who’s missed the whole season recovering from ACL surgery, the Celtics are fully healthy.
For Indiana, both Tyrese Halliburton (knee) and Chris Duarte (ankle) are questionable to play. Halliburton sat out Wednesday’s game against Toronto, while Duarte has missed the last four.
Celtics Projected Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Derrick White
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Al Horford
Pacers Projected Starters
PG: Andrew Nembhard
SG: Buddy Hield
SF: Oshae Brissett
PF: Bennedict Mathurin
C: Myles Turner
Boston Celtics Keys To Victory
Tuesday’s win over the Kings was one of the biggest confidence-building wins the C’s have had in a while. With a fully-healthy rotation, they blew out one of the top teams in the West. Robert Williams III’s return proved massive in securing the win even though he only played eight minutes. Following the game, Joe Mazzulla highlighted his defensive versatility, saying that the team was able to switch matchups freely because of his presence on the floor. The Pacers on Wednesday found success on offense by forcing switches and getting into the paint, where they shot 64%. If Rob’s minutes are back to normal tonight, the Celtics should be able to effectively stop this game plan and force some turnovers.
Another big reason why they won was the ball movement, which resulted in 33 assists on the night. When the Celtics put up more than 25 assists in a game this season, they’re 12-4, and with more than 30, they’re undefeated. Keeping the ball moving around and making the extra pass has been a point of emphasis all season, and tonight especially, it will play a big role in the Celtics’ ability to mitigate Myles Turner’s rim protection.
Indiana Pacers Keys To Victory
After a disastrous January and February, the Indiana Pacers have regrouped and are back in the play-in race, sitting 1.5 games back of the Chicago Bulls for the 10th seed. Since the break, their record is 7-6, and that turnaround can be partially attributed to the improved play of Andrew Nembhard. Over his last seven games, the rookie PG is averaging 17.3 points-per-game and shooting 48.3% from deep, well above his season averages of 8.9 and 34.7%. Against Toronto, he dazzled with 25 points, 10 assists, and a dagger three at the end of the 4th quarter. When Nembhard is playing well, the team plays well, and the Pacers will continue to let him and fellow rookie Bennedict Mathurin play a big role in the offense alongside All-Star Tyrese Halliburton.
The last time these two teams met, Myles Turner had the offensive game of his life. Fresh off of the All-Star break, Turner shot 8/10 from three and finished with 40 points, both of which are career highs. It’s unreasonable for Indiana to expect that type of performance against Boston once again, but the Pacers will need Turner to establish his perimeter shooting to draw Robert Williams III and Al Horford away from the basket. This will make life a lot easier for their young guards and maximize their scoring abilities inside.
The Pacers have played two strong games against the Celtics, but Boston has the edge right now. Practically the whole rotation is healthy and well-rested, and hopefully, the last game sets them on the right track going into the postseason. I expect the Garden to be rocking, and I expect the Celtics to take care of business tonight.