Boston Celtics: Indiana Pacers
Sure, this wasn't the way the Boston Celtics wanted to go into a five-day holiday break. The Green have lost three straight, including a 106-79 shellacking at the hands of the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers on Sunday night that spoiled Brad Stevens' homecoming.
Not that they are worried about the standings at the moment, but the Celtics have slipped behind the Toronto Raptors at the top of the Atlantic Division (although Boston's 12-17 record is still good enough for the eighth seed in the tumbledown East).
While no team likes to enter a lengthy break on a downturn, the Celtics could use a recess.
The Celtics have played 29 games in 54 days to start the 2013-14 season. Nineteen of those games came over the first 31 days of the campaign, but even as the schedule eases up slightly, the Celtics won't mind hitting the refresh button. The Green will enjoy three full days off to start this holiday break, and Boston reconvenes for practice Dec. 26; its next game is Saturday's visit from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This three-game stretch before the break was supposed to be a chance for Boston to gauge its progress and see where it stood in the East. Despite owning big early leads against Detroit and Washington -- two very likely playoff teams -- the Celtics faltered late and dropped both. Stevens knew Sunday's trip to Indiana would be no picnic, and the Pacers dominated much of the game while improving to 13-1 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season.
Stevens downplayed the hype about returning to the city he was raised in, the same city where he established himself as a coach at Butler University. He admitted the crowd was decorated with friends and family, but deadpanned to reporters in Indianapolis after the loss that, "I probably would have been better off sitting up in the stands with somebody the way we played."
Indiana simply bullied Boston and its undersized frontcourt near the hoop for much of the game. The Celtics didn't generate their first points in the paint until more than 19 minutes in, by which time the hosts had built a 14-point lead as part of a game-altering 15-1 run. Indiana's lead went as high as 27 in the third quarter, when Lance Stephenson was filling up the box score on his triple-double, breaking Courtney Lee's ankles and gyrating toward Boston's bench.
Yes, the Celtics could use a refresh button.
"I felt like one team was here to play, the other team was already on their Christmas break and it showed," Celtics veteran Gerald Wallace said. "[The Pacers] executed well, and they pretty much dominated in every aspect of the game."
Visits from two more potential East playoff teams (Cleveland, Atlanta) loom when the Celtics get back on the floor. Six of the team's next seven after that are on the road, including a five-game Western swing that actually starts in the middle of the country in Oklahoma City.
Boston needs to clear its head a bit after this recent stretch. Players scattered across the country after Sunday's loss and will huddle again Thursday in Waltham with the goal of playing more consistent ball.
This stretch spanning into the new calendar year could help define the 2013-14 season. Can Boston remain competitive and, with Rajon Rondo's return looming early in 2014, emerge as an honest-to-goodness contender in the East (even if it's in the tier below the Pacers and Heat)? Or will Boston fade into the lottery, where many expected it would be this season?
For now, Boston players are welcoming the break. They know there's room for improvement, but it starts with embracing a rare chance to enjoy the holiday (even if many of Boston players pledged to spend these next three days working out on their own).
As Avery Bradley told reporters after Sunday's loss, "We took a lot of steps forward this [season]. Obviously, we took some back the last few games. We know what we need to improve on."
THE NITTY GRITTY
There was a two-minute stretch midway through the first quarter in which the Celtics briefly owned a five-point lead. The Pacers dominated much of the other 46. Paul George scored 18 of his team-high 24 points in the third quarter, while Roy Hibbert (15 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks) governed around the basket. Lance Stephenson hung around long enough in the fourth quarter to polish off a triple-double (12 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists over 35 minutes) for the Pacers. Avery Bradley scored a team-high 13 points for Boston, but cooled after a fast start. Bradley and Brandon Bass were a team-worst minus-19 in plus/minus (not that any of Boston's players were much better in that category). The Celtics didn't score their first points in the paint until 19:15 into the game, which tells you about Hibbert's influence there.
Hard to believe, but it was still a one-possession game with just over eight minutes to play in the first half, but the Pacers embarked on a 15-1 run that culminated with a Danny Granger 3-pointer for a 38-24 lead with 5:06 to play in the second quarter. Boston got no closer than 15 in the second half while the lead ballooned as high as 27.
A CHANCE FOR BROOKS
MarShon Brooks, stuck in the land of DNPs lately, got 10 minutes of fourth-quarter playing time. He made one of his two attempts, scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds in a rare opportunity to state his case for playing time. He was Boston's only player not in the negative for plus-minus, but he wasn't in positive. He was even over his floor time.
The Pacers owned a 50-22 advantage in points in the paint and outrebounded Boston 53-41. Boston had no answers for Indiana's size and the Pacers just bullied Boston's undersized frontcourt early on. ... The Celtics shot 38.1 percent from the floor (32 of 84), but the Pacers finished at 49.4 percent (41 of 83). ... Keith Bogans was a healthy DNP.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (12-17) head into a five-day holiday break on a three-game losing streak. They knew Sunday's game in Indy would be tough, but that's only going to leave them kicking themselves about giving away big leads in recent losses to Detroit and Washington. Boston will take the next three days completely off before reconvening at practice the day after Christmas. The Celtics host the Cleveland Cavaliers next Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
- HEADED HOME: Brad Stevens returns to his native Indianapolis for the first time as an NBA coach and while he's excited about seeing friends and family, many of whom will pack the arena, he joked, "If anybody has watched [the Pacers] play, you know I’m not really looking forward to the game." The guess here is that he's actually pretty enthused about going against the East-leading Pacers. He'd probably prefer his team be playing a little crisper, having let two winnable games slip away against other East playoff teams this week (Detroit, Washington). But the Pacers represent a measuring stick for where Boston needs to get to in the conference.
- RIGHT ROTATION: Stevens went 11-deep during Saturday's loss to Washington, but he did tighten the rotations a bit, leaning heavy on starters (particularly a hot-shooting Avery Bradley) in the second half when the Wizards rallied. Gerald Wallace topped the bench players while playing 17:36 and only two others reached double figures in minutes in Kris Humphries (16:14) and Phil Pressey (13:46). Stevens admitted its a balance and one that might return to a more normal look Sunday. "“I’ve always thought that you go with guys that are really playing well. Maybe I should’ve stuck with a couple of those [bench] guys a little bit longer. But that’s why I did it with Avery, and that cut into Courtney [Lee]’s opportunity in the second half. So I’m sure it’ll be back more traditional ways tomorrow, but you’re always looking for the game within the game to try to figure out how to win that single one.”
- PACING THE EAST: The Celtics know how tough it is to win in Indy. "It’s going to be a challenge for us," said Gerald Wallace. "We’re facing one of the best teams in the league on their home court. I think they’ve only lost, what, one game at home this year? It’s going to be a test for us to mentally stay together and execute our offense and kind of take them out of what they want to do. I think we did a great job of playing them here and it’s going to be even tougher on the road, but I think we can still gives ourselves a chance to win." The Pacers rank first in the league in defensive rating (94.2) and are solid on the glass (fourth in total rebound percentage). An inconsistent Boston offense can't get discouraged agains the best defense in the league and maximize each opportunity.
- WHAT ELSE?: Detroit is the only team to beat the Pacers at home this season (Indy won its first 11 at Bankers Life this season). ... Danny Granger made his season debut against Houston on Friday (missing 6-of-7 shots while putting up five points over 22 minutes). ... The Celtics have a five-day break after Sunday's game, the first three of which they'll take off completely from basketball activities as players scatter around the country for the holidays.
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After being plagued by ball security issues early in the season, Boston appeared to have halted the turnover locomotive by inserting Jordan Crawford at starting point guard with the goal of easing the ballhandling duties on Avery Bradley. Sure enough, Boston's team turnover percentage dipped from a league-worst 22.4 percent over its first four games to a mere 13.9 percent (fifth-best in that span) during a four-game winning streak.
Now Boston has dropped six games in a row and that turnover percentage has spiked back to 17.8 percent (fifth-worst in the league in that span). Boston is giving the ball away 16.8 times per game during the losing streak.
Maybe it should come as no surprise, but during this six-game losing streak, Boston owns the worst offensive rating in the NBA (90 points per 100 possessions). A group that already struggles to put points on the board is further shooting itself in the foot by regularly giving away the ball.
It really boils down to a very simple truth: The Celtics have a minimal margin for error and cannot afford careless turnovers if they want to be competitive.
Even rookie Kelly Olynyk admits it's pretty elementary.
"If you limit your turnovers, you're going to have a great chance to win the game," he said. "The more shots you're getting up, the more chances you have to make it, the more points you're going to put on the board."
And putting points on the board has been no easy task for these Celtics. When the team has struggled to generate offense, their frustration tends to seep into the defensive end, where they lose focus -- even if for brief spells -- and opponents go on runs that Boston simply is not able to overcome.
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"You the new coach?" the man asked.
Vogel nodded, but politely noted that he'd actually been a head coach in the NBA for the better part of three years. That only perplexed the man, who wondered out loud about how that could be if the Boston Celtics had only this summer hired their new head coach.
"I'm not the Celtics coach," Vogel explained for the second time that night, having been mistaken for Brad Stevens by his server a short time before.
Such are the perils of being a fresh-faced professional basketball coach. The 40-year-old Vogel admitted the error happens even more frequently in Indianapolis given 37-year-old Stevens' success at Butler University.
Stevens and Vogel became friends during their time together in Indy, often exchanging basketball-related text messages. With Stevens' head still spinning after being hired as Celtics coach in early July, he met up with Vogel at the Orlando Summer League and the pair dined for close to three hours while talking about the NBA transition.
"I was picking his brain," noted Vogel, suggesting it wasn't the other way around. "He’s a brilliant basketball mind. We were just sharing what the NBA is like, just some of the decisions he’s going to have to make, and I gave him some of my insight."
Much of that advice centered on Stevens being himself at the NBA level. Vogel implored Stevens not to change his demeanor or style from the collegiate level, suggesting that the bonds that Stevens forged with his players at Butler would be just as important as those he would form with his players in Boston.
"A lot of college coaches don’t run their team like this, where it’s kind of a partnership with your players, not a boss-employee relationship," said Vogel. "It’s a partnership. I think he’s always done that, so it’s just a matter of him continuing to be himself. And he’ll be successful."
Like any team in transition, the Celtics have endured their lumps this season, losing five straight heading into Friday's visit from the East-leading Pacers. Vogel reminded Stevens to embrace the process while navigating those rough waters.
"Frank was really helpful and really great to me," said Stevens. "We went out to dinner in Orlando at summer league soon after I got the job and talked for a good three hours just about all the little things that are coming. I’d probably ask all different questions now that I’ve lived it, that I’ve started to see it. It’s definitely different than what I was used to. But he, like everybody else that I’ve talked to, and all the coaches that I’ve talked to, have been great about, 'Just stay the course and know that you’ve got to keep the big picture in mind,' especially when you’re going through stretches like this."
It's probably not a surprise to learn that Stevens grew up a Pacers fan, so he was actively rooting for Vogel as recently as five months ago. Before Friday's game, Stevens playfully joked, "I grew up a Pacers fan and really that was the team I rooted for for the first 36 years of my life. And now, they’ve got their best team that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Of course that’s how it works, right?"
Then he added, "It’s fun a team to follow, a great organization, great leadership all the way throughout the organization. And I couldn’t be happier for Frank Vogel. I think he does a great job. I wish them all the best, just not three times a year."
Vogel likewise wants the best for Stevens. Even if he can't walk around Boston without people confusing him for the new Celtics coach. Did it at least get him a free meal?
"No, if I said I was Brad Stevens it probably would have," said Vogel. "I wasn’t very smart with my answer."
BOSTON -- Here's a look at how the Indiana Pacers defeated the Boston Celtics 97-82 Friday night at TD Garden:
As well as the Celtics played for the first two quarters (building an eight-point halftime advantage), they were twice as atrocious over the final two frames as Indiana made this a laugher. The Celtics couldn't stop turning the ball over (21 giveaways for 30 points overall) as the Pacers cranked up their defensive intensity and ran away with the game after the intermission. Paul George scored a game-high 27 points on 9-of-20 shooting, while Lance Stephenson quietly posted a triple-double (10 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) to lead the Pacers. Boston got a team-high 24 points from Jordan Crawford, who did most of his damage before the intermission by hitting his first eight shots. Jeff Green added 20 points for Boston.
The Celtics played a stellar first half, but everything fell apart in the third quarter. Indiana cranked up the pressure and Boston gave the ball away 11 times (leading to 13 points) in the frame. The Celtics were 3-of-14 shooting for a mere eight points and Crawford, who couldn't miss in the first two frames, missed twice in the quarter (and was minus-17 during his 11 minutes of floor time in the frame). The Pacers outscored Boston 25-8 and owned a nine-point lead heading to the final frame (where they pushed that lead as high as 20).
Rookie forward/center Kelly Olynyk departed in the second quarter with a sprained right ankle and did not return. ... Keith Bogans (illness) did not dress for Boston. ... The Celtics had a measly 11 assists overall.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (4-10) now have lost six straight and head right back out on the road as part of this stretch that features five games in five cities over seven nights. They play the tail end of a back-to-back Saturday in Atlanta before visiting Charlotte on Monday. Boston is home for Thanksgiving with visits from Memphis and Cleveland sandwiched around the holiday.
Despite Indy's big front line (Roy Hibbert and David West), Celtics coach Brad Stevens didn't make the switch back to rookie Vitor Faverani to add some bulk up front. He likes how the Sullinger/Olynyk combo performed in San Antonio.
"I think the two bigs have complemented each other pretty well ever since Kelly arrived," said Stevens. "They both can pass. They both can shoot. They both can space the floor. You can run things through them, which is unique for 4s and 5s. We have to decide how we want to be and what team we’re going to be. Everybody gives us a little different feel when they’re on the court.
"Those guys gave us a nice little offensive rhythm, and to be quite honest, after starting down 18-1 against Houston, I didn’t want to start off with one point in the first nine minutes [against San Antonio]. And I felt like they would give us the best chance, offensively, of starting well as a group. But like I said, that could change tomorrow. We’ve just got to keep searching and find the best things for this team."
A few more quick hits from pregame access:
- BOGANS OUT AGAIN: Keith Bogans, who has played just 15 minutes in two appearances this season, is out again due to illness.
- C'S VS. SCHEDULE: The Celtics continue to endure a daunting November schedule, but Stevens was asked if he liked how his team bounced back from a drubbing in Houston with a competitive effort in San Antonio. "They’ve played 13 games since Oct. 30. Tonight will be the 14th and, like I said, we’ve had five practices since then," said Stevens. "They’re going to have nights that aren’t great and hopefully those are few and far between. But I think the most important thing is how you respond after that night. And they did a good job."
- VOGEL BACK IN BOSTON: Frank Vogel started his career as a video guy in Boston. Asked if he ever gets the urge to go check out what new technology the Celtics have for their current video staff, Vogel said, "I do. I always get flashbacks. Every nook and cranny of this building has some sort of memory of a win or a loss or an experience. Just like this whole city, when you walk around the city, there's so many memories here. It's always great coming back here."
- CAN'T CATCH A BREAK: After closing out a (winless) three-game road trip with a loss to the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs, the Celtics return home to host the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers. San Antonio owned the second-best defensive rating in the league (91.9 points per 100 possessions) and Indiana is the only team in front of them (91.3). The Pacers allow a measly 0.821 points per possession, tops in the NBA, according to Synergy Sports data. Indiana is limiting opponents to 39.5 percent shooting overall and doesn't put the opposition on the foul line very often. The Pacers are limiting opponents to a league-best 87.2 points per game. For Boston's anemic offense, this means another daunting challenge while trying to snap a five-game losing streak.
- GEORGE VS. GREEN: Indiana's Paul George is having a monster season, particularly on the offensive end where he's averaging 24.4 points on 46.5 percent shooting overall. The task of slowing him down will likely fall to Jeff Green, who has the length and athleticism to make him work. This is one of those nights where Green needs to bring his A-game on both ends of the court in order for Boston to have a chance. You'll remember his heroics in Indiana last year, sinking a late-game winner for one of the Celtics' most-exciting comebacks of the 2012-13 season.
- GET KELLY GOING: Alright, so a frontline of David West and Roy Hibbert isn't the ideal combo to try to get your rookie center going offensively. But part of the reason first-year coach Brad Stevens shuffled Olynyk and Jared Sullinger to the starting lineup is their offensive potential (whether facilitating with their skilled passing, or using their range to spread the floor). Stevens remains adamant that the shots will eventually start falling for Olynyk and, if he can avoid foul trouble, one of these nights he's going to bust this rookie shooting slump.
- WHAT ELSE?: For Stevens, this is a matchup against his "hometown" team. He'll have plenty of friends back home in Indianapolis watching from afar (if they haven't been keeping tabs via League Pass already). ... Brandon Bass has often struggled to find a rhythm off the bench, but the Celtics need him to be a second-unit spark if Olynyk and Sullinger are with the first unit. Bass can bring a defensive spark off the pine, but the Celtics need his scoring, too.
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The National Basketball Association game scheduled for Tuesday, April 16 between the Indiana Pacers and the Boston Celtics at TD Garden has been canceled. The game will not be rescheduled. The NBA expresses its sympathy to all those affected by the tragedy in Boston earlier today.
Both teams will finish the season with 81 games played. The Eastern Conference playoff seedings are not affected by the cancellation.
The Celtics also released a statement on the cancellation of Tuesday's game:
Out of respect to all those who have been impacted by the tragic events today in Boston, including members of the extended Celtics family, the Boston Celtics and the NBA have decided to cancel the game scheduled for Tuesday April 16 between the Boston Celtics and the Indiana Pacers.
The game will not be rescheduled. Instructions for any fans holding tickets to the game will be provided on Celtics.com after 3 p.m. tomorrow.
Our sincere sympathies go out to all those affected by this senseless tragedy. The entire Celtics organization would like to acknowledge the heroic efforts of the brave civilian, police, fire and medical personnel responding today in the City of Boston.
INDIANAPOLIS -- It wasn't a particularly flattering accessory, but Paul Pierce had one leg of his suit pants rolled up and a large ice wrap over his left knee while addressing the media after Wednesday's win over the Indiana Pacers.
Reason for concern?
"Just a little bruise, it happened [Tuesday] night [in Philadelphia]," Pierce said. "I played, so it’s not a problem."
True, but Pierce labored, missing 11 of the 15 shots he put up while posting 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists over 33 minutes, 48 seconds. Then again, the knee didn't hinder him from holding up 6-foot-9, 250-pound David West just long enough for Jeff Green to produce the winning layup in an 83-81 triumph over the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Pierce, Boston's usual final-play target, served as decoy on the decisive set, and his back pick keyed Green's give-and-go with Kevin Garnett for the winning hoop.
"Good things happen when you execute –- being in the right spot, setting the screen," Pierce said. "It showed tonight. Everybody was in the right spot."
Pierce also has battled a pinched nerve in his neck, but a big victory will dull the pain of lingering bumps and bruises.
A handful of postgame notes from Wednesday:
* DEFENSE SPARKED COMEBACK: Masked ever so slightly by Green's late-game offensive heroics was just how good Boston's defense was in the final frame. The Pacers were just 4-of-20 shooting (20 percent) for 13 points. What's more, George Hill scored eight of those points in a 61-second span while trying to fend off a Boston charge. Paul George provided Indiana's only other bucket of the frame. In fact, after George's 3-pointer with 4:36 to play, the Pacers did not score again, missing their final seven shots and turning the ball over three times.
* CRAWFORD BIG IN FOURTH: Jordan Crawford didn't score in the fourth quarter, but he played seven quality minutes to start the frame, allowing the likes of Avery Bradley and Pierce to rest for the late run. Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers: "Jordan Crawford was on the floor when we started our run; he was big for us. I was going to search for any lineup I could find tonight in the second half, because that’s what you felt the game was going to be. It wasn’t going to be a normal [game]. Going into the game, I thought we were going to be big all game. Then we decided, small was better and it worked out for us." Crawford finished with two points on 1-of-4 shooting but was plus-8 over 12:42 of floor time.
THE NITTY GRITTY
Jeff Green muscled in a layup with 0.5 seconds remaining off a feed from Kevin Garnett -- a beautifully designed final play as the Celtics overcame a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to stun the Pacers on their home floor. Garnett scored a team-high 18 points to go along with 10 rebounds, while Avery Bradley and Paul Pierce each had 13 points. Paul George scored a team-high 16 points for Indiana, while David West (11 points, 16 rebounds) and Roy Hibbert (12 points, 12 rebounds) each had double-doubles.
THE FINAL MINUTE
The Celtics simply refused to roll over and battled back multiple times in this game. Bradley sneaked free for an uncontested layup with 1:21 to go to tie the game at 81. After each team missed chances to pull ahead, the Celtics got a final-shot opportunity. Green fed Garnett on the left elbow, then curled around and received the ball, storming the baseline. He fumbled the ball a bit but was able to muscle it in for the winning bucket with a half-second to go.
C'S CAN'T CLOSE FIRST HALF
With the Pacers threatening to open a double-digit lead, the Celtics got some momentum late in the first half by making it a one-possession game. But things unraveled in a hurry. Looking to go 2-for-1, Bradley got blocked on a baseline drive and George delivered a dunk in transition. Pierce turned the ball over the next trip down, and West converted a three-point play as Indy's lead went back to nine. The Pacers pushed their lead as high as 14 midway through the third quarter (Lance Stephenson capped a 7-0 run with a dunk for a 63-49 lead).
C'S MAKE THEIR RUN
The Celtics knocked their deficit to 10 after three quarters and scored the first five points of the final frame to make things interesting again. When the Pacers went cold, Boston clawed within a point, but George Hill scored eight points for Indiana in 61 seconds -- two 3-pointers and a dunk in transition after a Hibbert block -- and the lead was soon at nine (81-72 with 4:36 to go). But Boston simply would not go quietly, storming back and setting up Green's heroics.
MENACE IN THE MIDDLE
In just over eight minutes of first-quarter play, Hibbert posted 12 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) with seven rebounds and a block while absolutely dominating play at the defensive end of the floor. The Pacers led 27-19 after the frame. He didn't score another point the rest of the night.
D.J. White, in his third game with Boston since inking a 10-day contract, made his debut to start the second quarter. He played 3:43, grabbing two rebounds and blocking two shots, while missing his only field goal attempt.
KG JOINS TOP 10 IN BOARDS
After leapfrogging Hakeem Olajuwon last week, Garnett shuffled into the top 10 all time in rebounds, moving past Wes Unseld into 10th place with 10 caroms on the night. Garnett has some work to do to move higher -- Walt Bellamy is 467 rebounds ahead of him in ninth place.
Garnett and Hibbert got matching technicals late in the fourth quarter for some post-whistle jostling. For Garnett, it's his team-leading seventh technical foul of the season.
WHAT IT MEANS
Wow, what a win for Boston. The Celtics could have rolled over on the second night of a back-to-back multiple times but hung in there and found a way to emerge with a gutsy win. That's four in a row for Boston, which is a season-high six games over .500. The Celtics get a day off before hosting the Hawks on Friday night at TD Garden. They are back on the road for two games after that, including Sunday's national TV battle in Oklahoma City.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Celtics and Pacers are currently slotted as playoff foes -- if the season ended Tuesday it would be the 2-7 matchup in the Eastern Conference -- but Boston coach Doc Rivers downplayed all the chatter about postseason prep with 23 games remaining in the season.
"We focus on that all year, to be honest," said Rivers. "We talk about it all year, every practice is a playoff practice. It’s silly to [focus on playoff prep] because you don’t know who you are playing until very late. I think every team is preparing -- they are not putting in any new stuff, or anything like that. I think you just slowly do it. But I don’t give it much thought."
Rivers stressed again that it's more important to him for his team to be healthy and playing well than worry about where the Celtics land on the playoff ladder.
"It's definitely more important to be right -- if you’re injured or not right, it doesn’t matter what seed you are, you’ll be going home soon," said Rivers. "So that’s No. 1. But obviously if you can get home court, you want it. I know we are close ... but at the end of the day, we have to take care of our own business. We just have to keep getting better and playing better. And all that other stuff will take care of itself."
Playing the second night of a back-to-back in Indiana, Rivers said he won't necessarily extend his rotation, especially after keeping minutes manageable during Tuesday's win in Philadelphia.
"A lot of guys didn’t play a lot of minutes last night," said Rivers. "It was 7 o'clock game, which was nice of [the league]. So we’ll see, that will be visual, more than -- there are certain games where you go into the game and you know you need to [limit minutes]. Tonight, I think our guys are pretty fresh. We’ve had a lot of days off, by the way, so I think our guys are pretty good."
Added Rivers: "We’re playing a certain amount of guys and we brought in more guys so we can extend the rotation on given nights. We’re still going to rest guys every once in a while -- Kevin [Garnett] and Paul [Pierce], and [Jason Terry] maybe -- but other than that, we’re just kinda plugging along; go one game at a time. We don’t talk a lot about anything else really, except for the next game. We’re pretty boring right now. Which is good."
* PLAYOFF PREVIEW?: If the postseason began today, the Celtics and Pacers would be the 2-7 matchup in the Eastern Conference. Boston, having moved 1½ games out of the fourth seed with Tuesday's win in Philadelphia, would prefer to shuffle up a bit before the playoffs arrive, but there's a good chance they might be back in these parts at some point in April or May.
* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: The Pacers are the league's best defense by nearly every barometer, including Synergy Sports data that shows Indiana allows a mere 0.857 points per play (by comparison, the Celtics are fifth at 0.894 ppp). The Pacers have the best transition defense in the league (1.011 ppp) and the second best halfcourt defense (0.837 ppp). Much of that success can be traced to David West -- a big man the Celtics nearly hooked coming out of the lockout -- as he is allowing a measly 0.689 points per play (second best in the league and now one spot ahead of Boston's Avery Bradley; old friend Marquis Daniels actually tops the list of all player with at least 200 possessions). Offensively, the Pacers rank 21st in the league, averaging 0.892 points per play. Indy leans heavy on post offense (7th overall), but struggles with spot-up shooting (23rd overall). George Hill has been their most efficient scorer, averaging 1.007 points per play and ranking in the 84th percentile overall.
* TAKE CARE OF THE BALL: In a defensive battle, every possession is valuable. The Celtics have to hope they shook all the rust from playing just one game over the previous seven days in Philadelphia, where they turned the ball over a season-high 22 times. The Pacers actually shoot themselves in the foot pretty often, owning the second worst turnover percentage in the league (16.3), but Boston absolutely has to value the ball in order to put up points against this team.
* COMPETITIVE ON THE GLASS: It goes without saying when playing against a frontline like Indy boasts, but Boston has to rebound. The Pacers own the best overall rebounding percentage in the NBA (52.7) and are third best on the offensive glass (30.1 percent). Can Boston afford to run with smaller three-guard lineups (like it did often versus Philly), or is this a night it's forced to go big, potentially throwing the likes of D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph into a key regular-season clash? This is the sort of game where Rivers would probably prefer to tighten up the rotation, but playing the second night of a back-to-back and needing help on the glass might force his hand at times (even just in small chunks) during this game.
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