Game 66: Celtics vs. Pacers
March, 16, 2011
By Greg Payne | ESPNBoston.com
|(47-18, 28-6 home)||-- vs. --||(29-38, 11-23 away)|
PAYNE'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
- West Returns: Delonte West is expected to play tonight following an eight-game absence due to a sprained right ankle. It's the latest comeback attempt for the oft-injured Celtics guard, who's only played in eight games for the Celtics this season. He's still regarded as a crucial piece of the team's second unit, even with the recent addition of Carlos Arroyo. Keep an eye on how head coach Doc Rivers juggles the minutes between the two backup point guard candidates. Don't be shocked if West spends more time serving as the backup shooting guard while Arroyo handles the ball for the second five.
- March Madness: Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough has so far had one of the best statistical months of his young NBA career. In nine games in March, Hansbrough's averaged 20.3 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 51.9 percent from the field. Against the New York Knicks on Sunday, Hansbrough posted a career-high of 29 points to go along with eight rebounds, only to one-up that point total by pouring in 30 points against that same Knicks squad on Tuesday.
- Rondo's Roadblock: The word "slump" has been associated with Rajon Rondo the last few days, in the wake of his struggles in the month of March. In the seven games Rondo's played in this month he's averaged 8.1 points and 9.3 assists, but he's shot just 37.7 percent from the field. His assist numbers have troubled folks the most, as his assists-per-game average has dropped in each month since the season started. His head-to-head matchups won't get any easier tonight, as he'll square off against the upstart Darren Collison, who's coming off of a 24-point (on 9-of-13 shooting) nine-assist effort against the Knicks.
Indiana (29-38) will be coming to town on a high this time after a home-and-home sweep of New York.
Danny Granger scored 26 points Tuesday, including a jumper with 0.3 seconds remaining to give the Pacers a 119-117 home victory. Granger missed Sunday's 106-93 win at Madison Square Garden because of strep throat. Tyler Hansbrough set a new career high in each game against the Knicks, following a 29-point effort Sunday with 30 points two nights later.
The Pacers, who had lost six straight prior to Sunday, are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the East -- one-half game ahead of Charlotte.
"We had a rough stretch that, we all understand that we went through a tough time," coach Frank Vogel said. "We're on our way back to being ourselves."
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