Celtics - Pacers preview: No time to exhale

Celtics - Pacers preview: No time to exhale
November 22, 2013, 12:45 pm
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BOSTON — The good news for the Boston Celtics is that after nearly a week on the road, they finally get to come home and play in front of their fans.

The downside to that is the opponent, who just so happens to be the Indiana Pacers (10-1), the hottest team in the East this season, Miami included.

Despite the Celtics' grueling schedule which has included road games against the San Antonio Spurs, two-time defending NBA champion Miami as well as home date against a red-hot Portland Trail Blazers club, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens isn't about to use that as an excuse for Boston's 4-9 record.

Oh, and after tonight's game against Indiana?

The Celtics are back on the road at Atlanta and Charlotte on Saturday and Monday, respectively.

"The road doesn't get any easier, but that's OK," Stevens said. "Everybody has to play the same amount of games and play these teams. We're just playing a lot of them early."

Here are some other keys to tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston has to find a way to make this into an uptempo affair if they are to have any shot at pulling off the upset. Boston's offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) is 106.2 in wins. In losses, that figure drops to a woeful 91.4. It won't be easy against a Pacers team that's regarded as the league's best teams defensively. "We have good players who can do a lot of things," Indiana's Paul George told CSNNE.com. "But we have a team of great defenders who get after it. That's our identity; that's who we are."

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jared Sullinger vs David West: Two burly power forwards going at it? We don't see enough of these kind of battles in the NBA anymore. Sullinger is trending in the right direction now, averaging 14.5 points and 13 rebounds in his last two games. West has been solid as ever, averaging 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game this season.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul George is making the shift from great player to bona fide superstar before our very eyes. He's the best player on the best team in the East, firmly entrenched as an MVP candidate this season. As much as he would love that award, George has his sights squarely on leading the Pacers to an NBA title. "It drives me a lot," George said, referring to winning an NBA title. "Especially now. You hear it all the time, how teams get so close. I don't want us to be one of those teams."

STAT TO TRACK: Aside from committing too many turnovers, another notable shortcoming of the Pacers is that they don't really grab a ton of offensive rebounds as one might expect. In fact, the Celtics are statistically speaking, a better offensive rebounding team that the Pacers who grab 9.7 offensive boards per game compared to the Celtics and their 10.9.