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Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Game 29: Celtics vs. Pacers

By Chris Forsberg

(23-5, 10-4 away)     -- vs. --     (13-15, 8-7 home)
at Conseco Fieldhouse, 7 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)

GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
Injuries have been a problem all season for the Boston Celtics, but the absence of Rajon Rondo has been particularly felt over the last two games.

The Eastern Conference-leading Celtics look to bounce back from their first loss in more than a month when they visit the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night.

Boston (23-5) had its 14-game winning streak snapped in an 86-78 loss at Orlando on Saturday. The loss was the team's first since a 102-101 defeat at Toronto on Nov. 21 and was its lowest-scoring game of the season.

While Shaquille O'Neal and former Pacer Jermaine O'Neal both returned from injuries, Rondo missed his fourth straight game with a sprained ankle. The team has also been without center Kendrick Perkins all season.

It's the absence of Rondo, the NBA's assists leader, that has hurt the most recently. Boston has struggled to move the ball the last two games without its floor leader. The Celtics had a season-low 15 assists against the Magic after escaping with an 84-80 win over Philadelphia last Wednesday in which they had 19 assists. Rondo isn't expected to play Tuesday.

"I don't know if it did today, but it will, let's be honest," coach Doc Rivers told NBA.com regarding whether injuries played a factor in the loss to the Magic. "But listen, nobody is going to cry for us."

The Celtics have lost back-to-back games only once this season, but they've won three in a row and nine of 11 against the Pacers (13-15), including a 99-88 victory Dec. 19 in which they were also without Rondo.

That was the first time in seven games against Indiana that Boston failed to reach 100 points. Six players scored in double figures, including Paul Pierce, who had a triple-double with 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.

This was the third straight year Boston has played on Christmas Day. The previous two seasons the Celtics struggled immediately after. They defeated the Magic last Christmas, but then lost three straight and eight of 12.

However, Indiana doesn't appear to pose much of a problem. The Pacers have lost five of seven while failing to score 95 points in the last three games. They fell 104-90 to Memphis on Sunday, shooting 35.6 percent.

Read the full preview HERE.

FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH