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."
Getting swept in the four-game season series with Boston wouldn't help the Pacers' postseason chances.
They've dropped 11 of 13 meetings with the Celtics, including five in a row while averaging 89.6 points on 40.2 percent shooting. Indiana made just 37.5 percent of its field goals in a 92-80 loss at Boston on March 16.
Granger has struggled greatly over the last four contests versus the Celtics, making 28.6 percent of his field goals while hitting 4 of 23 from beyond the arc to average 16.3 points.
He's entering this matchup in sluggish shooting form, making 9 of 27 shots to total 34 points over the last two games.
That may not improve with the Celtics playing stifling defense of late, yielding just 83.2 points over the last 10 games. However, they're also sputtering offensively in that span, scoring 85.9 points per contest.
Boston appeared to be comfortably on its way to a victory Sunday, but blew a 25-point, second-quarter lead before pulling out an 85-82 win over Western Conference-worst Minnesota to open this four-game road trip.
"You've got to work to win them all," said forward Kevin Garnett, who had 13 points and 13 rebounds against the Timberwolves.
It's unclear if Rajon Rondo, among the NBA's leaders with 11.4 assists per game, will play after sitting out Sunday's win with an injured right pinky finger. The All-Star point guard is averaging 9.6 points and 10.4 assists over his last seven meetings with Indiana, but has appeared in only one of three matchups this season due to injuries.