Celtics-Pacers: Keys to the game

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Celtics-Pacers: Keys to the game

BOSTON When it comes to winning in the NBA, there's always a price to be paid. One of the drawbacks in Boston's 91-83 comeback win over Orlando on Thursday was that it meant extending the minutes of core guys like Kevin Garnett.

"It was a tough call for me," said C's coach Doc Rivers, pointing towards tonight's game against Indiana as one of the reasons the choice to extend Garnett's playing time was not an easy one to make. "He wanted to stay in so we allowed him to."

Garnett wasn't alone.

Paul Pierce wound up playing a season-high 44 minutes which included him seeing floor action in all but 23 seconds of the second half.

With a tough, well-rested Indiana Pacers team that arrived in Beantown Thursday afternoon, the C's might have to tap into their bench earlier and more often than usual.

That may not necessarily be a bad thing when you consider how so many of the Celtics' role players stepped up on Thursday, making the most of their opportunity to play meaningful minutes in the absence of starters Rajon Rondo (wrist), Ray Allen (ankle) and Jermaine O'Neal (knee).

It was the kind of victory that bodes well for a team with lots of new faces still trying to figure out how they fit in with the current core.

"It should give us tremendous confidence," Pierce said. "Especially with guys hurt. You got key - key! - guys hurt. Jermaine (O'Neal) was huge the first game guarding Dwight (Howard); our all-star point guard (Rondo), our all-star two-guard (Allen) everything was in the makings for us to lay down (against the Pacers) and get ready for (tonight)."

But they didn't.

Rather than fold, they found a way to escape with an improbable win.

But the success of Thursday night will do them little good against a Pacers squad that already has two wins in as many games against the Celtics this season.

"We owe them," said C's forward Brandon Bass. "They beat us in our place. We went there, they beat us. We just owe them. We gotta come out with the same defensive intensity we had (on Thursday) and get the win."

Here are some of the things to keep tabs on as the Celtics seek a fourth straight win that would bring them back to having a .500 record.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Dead legs have to be a huge concern for the Celtics tonight. The best indicator of this is usually in how a team shoots from the field. Jumpers don't have the same lift, and lay-ups tend to roll in and out more often. That becomes an even bigger deal tonight against an Indiana team that's ranked No. 1 in the NBA in field goal percentage defense (41.2 percent).

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs Danny Granger. It's obvious that Pierce is feeling like his old self -- and not just old -- lately. During the C's three-game winning streak, Pierce has averaged 25.7 points, nine assists and 6.3 rebounds in addition to playing solid defense. "I am starting to get my legs back. I am playing better basketball," Pierce said. Granger has also picked his game up recently, averaging 19.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in Indiana's last three games.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Indiana's Roy Hibbert is arguably the second-best center in the East behind Dwight Howard, but poses a different -- and in some ways, tougher -- matchup problem. Unlike Howard who relies heavily on his strength and athleticism, Hibbert's length is what will give the Celtics problems. Don't be surprised that if Jermaine O'Neal (left knee) can't play, C's Doc Rivers goes with rookie Greg Stiemsma as the starting center instead of having Brandon Bass start at power forward and sliding Kevin Garnett over to defend Hibbert. To the C's credit, they have made things tough for Hibbert offensively in both games this season. In each of the two matchups, the 7-foot-2 center shot 5-for-15 from the field.

STAT TO TRACK: If the Celtics are to have a real shot at winning tonight, they have to keep the Pacers off the offensive boards. Indiana won the second-chance points game by 14 in each of the two previous games. But the Celtics have hope that they can turn it around, especially against an Indiana that has been outscored each of the last three games in second-chance points, something that had not occurred at any point prior.

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OFFSEASON

Yabusele expects to be on Celtics summer league roster

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Yabusele expects to be on Celtics summer league roster

ROXBURY, Mass. – The Boston Celtics shocked many on draft night last week when they selected French forward Guerschon Yabusele with the 16th overall pick.

Well here’s another unexpected twist involving Yabusele: He said he plans to be on the Celtics’ summer league team which begins play next week in Salt Lake City.

“My agent is working in France to do something for me, to be able to play in summer league,” Yabusele said.

Like most NBA rookies, Yabusele is eager to get on the floor and get his first taste of NBA basketball this summer.

“That’s a dream come true,” Yabusele said. “When I was young thinking about the NBA all the time. I knew it would happen at some point.”

But the 20-year-old forward isn’t focused on testing the NBA waters and returning to overseas play soon.

“Not just stay three years or four, but stay all my life in the NBA,” he said.

Yabusele made the announcement following the Boston Celtics’ rookies (minus Ante Zizic) all participating in a basketball clinic at the Madison Park Community Center as the Boston Celtics celebrated their 50th Renovation project since 2008.

The news isn’t quite as optimistic for fellow international Celtic Ante Zizic who is not likely to have his contract situation overseas worked out in enough time to join Boston for summer league play in Salt Lake City and afterwards in Las Vegas.

Still, Yabusele getting a shot to play now is huge both for his own personal growth and that of the Celtics to get a better feel for how their first-round pick stacks up against fellow rookies and young teammates like Jordan Mickey.

This past season, Yabusele averaged 11.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 28.7 minutes with Rouen Metropole Basket in the LNB Pro A league in France. He appeared in 34 games and grabbed 10 or more rebounds 11 times while tallying eight double-doubles.