at Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Ind., 7 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)
PAYNE'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Green with Envy: The Pacers could do little to stop Jeff Green when these two clubs met in Boston less than two weeks ago, as Boston's reserve forward poured in 19 points off the bench, including 13 in the second quarter alone. Green made use of his size by posting up smaller defenders on the block and his repeated attempts inside resulted in easy baskets, as well as eight free throws. Bench support will once again be crucial Monday, seeing as it's the second night of a back-to-back and the Celtics might once again be without Rajon Rondo (finger).
Attack Mentality: The Celtics exploded out of the gate against the Timberwolves on Sunday, building a lead as big as 25 points mere minutes into the second quarter. From there, though, their aggressiveness evaporated, and the Wolves promptly climbed back into the game. The Celtics' struggles on the second night of back-to-backs on the road have been well-documented, and it will be interesting to see, given the team's recent struggles, how they play throughout Monday's game. Will they harness that same aggressiveness we saw in the first quarter against Minnesota? Or will they play like the lackluster group that finished the final three frames against the Wolves?
Clean the Glass: Despite winning by 12 in their last meeting with the Pacers, the Celtics allowed Indiana to grab 19 offensive rebounds, 10 of which were hauled in by the tandem of Roy Hibbert and Josh McRoberts. The Celtics should make a point to limit Indiana's second-chance opportunities, especially after not doing so against the Timberwolves on Sunday. The Wolves grabbed eight offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, and nearly stole the game as a result of their second and third looks at the basket. Given the scenario of Monday's game, Boston needs to make Indiana a one-and-done team.
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
The Boston Celtics may be stumbling, but they're afforded the luxury of cruising into the playoffs with another Atlantic Division title. The Indiana Pacers don't have any margin for error if they're going to join them in the postseason.
The Pacers attempt to create some breathing room in the tight race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by snapping a five-game slide to the Celtics on Monday night.
Boston (50-21) has already clinched a fourth consecutive division title, so a 5-6 stretch heading into its final 10 games isn't overly concerning. The Celtics are only playing for seeding. They are second in the conference, two games behind first-place Chicago and one-half game in front of Miami for third.
The Pacers (32-42) aren't as comfortable, entering this game with a tenuous hold on eighth. Indiana is just one game ahead of ninth-place Charlotte and two in front of Milwaukee for 10th. Indiana has also played two more games than its pursuers, and its lead was put in further jeopardy following a 100-88 loss at Detroit on Saturday after falling 110-93 to Sacramento the previous night.
"We just gave away two games in the last two nights to two teams that wanted it more, and just let other teams right back in the hunt," forward Danny Granger said Saturday. "We have to step it up and if we don't we will be out of the playoffs."
Read the full preview HERE.