Celtics-Pacers Review: What we saw

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Celtics-Pacers Review: What we saw

BOSTON Once again the Boston Celtics were short-handed, and once again it didn't really matter as Boston won its fourth straight with a 94-87 win over the Indiana Pacers. This was one of those games that C's coach Doc Rivers knew would be difficult to win after he saw it on the schedule. Playing a nationally televised game at Orlando on Thursday night, only to return home in the wee hours of the morning to host a young, athletic Indiana Pacers team.

"Oh, it was a trap game," Rivers said. "Make no mistake about it."

The thing is, somebody forgot to tell his players that the scheduling gods had lined this one up as one the C's were supposed to lose.

Come to think of it, Friday's win was just another night when the Celtics defied the odds stacked against them, to emerge victorious.

To win a game like this, a number of things have to break right.

With that said, we'll look at some of the factors identified prior to the game, that worked out in the Celtics' favor.

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).

WHAT WE SAW: Shooting the ball was not an issue for the Celtics, which was unexpected. Older teams coming home on the back end of a back-to-back set of games, aren't supposed to shoot better than 45 percent from the field. But the C's continue to defy conventional thinking with their penchant for winning games despite being without key players. "It was one of those games that you know mentally you're drained," said Boston's Paul Pierce. "It was a big win, an emotional win last night (at Orlando)." But it would not have been as sweet if they couldn't come home and handle business. "I'm proud with the way we stepped u tonight and really got the job done," Pierce said.

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.

WHAT WE SAW: You can add Granger to the growing list of talented players that are being outplayed by Pierce right now. While there are certainly a number of players who are having a better overall season than Pierce, he has been easily one of the league's top players during the Celtics' four-game winning streak. Why? Because he's hurting teams in so many ways. Scoring, rebounding, passing, defense you name it, and Pierce is bringing it to the floor. He led all scorers with 28 points, along with 10 rebounds and eight assists."Ya know that's my role on the team, to just continue to be aggressive, trying to get to the basket, mix it up with the outsideinside play, make plays and that's it," Pierce said. As for Granger, he had 21 points and six rebounds.

PLAYER TO WATCH: 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 made things tough for Hibbert offensively in both games this season. In each of the two games this season, the 7-foot-2 center shot 5-for-15 from the field.

WHAT WE SAW: Although a right ankle injury certainly slowed Hibbert down some, he really wasn't that effective even prior to the injury. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds while shooting 5-for-13 from the field. Garnett started at center again, and once again turned in a defensive gem of a performance. Boston also got strong play from Chris Wilcox, who had a season-high 14 points off the Celtics bench along with grabbing six rebounds. Dealing with Hibbert was a major point of emphasis for Wilcox when he was on the floor. "We just had to control Hibbert on the block and contest all the shots and make it hard for them and them make other guys scorers," Wilcox said.

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 outscored the C's by 14 points in each of the two previous matchups. The C's may catch a break of sorts with Indiana's Jeff Foster (back) expected to not play. Also, Indiana comes into tonight's game having been outscored each of the last three games in second-chance points, something that had not occurred at any point prior.

WHAT WE SAW: This was the one area that Boston had to find a way to at least be competitive in to have any shot at success. They were more than that. Boston not only kept Indiana from dominating the offensive boards, but they actually won the offensive boards battle which led to 14 second-chance points compared to just six for the Pacers.

Thomas won’t play Friday night vs. Raptors

Thomas won’t play Friday night vs. Raptors

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics are about to hit one of the toughest stretches of the season and they’ll have to do it for at least one more game without their leading scorer, Isaiah Thomas. 
 
Thomas, who suffered a right groin injury on Monday against the Houston Rockets, did not play on Wednesday against Orlando and said that he will not play in Friday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors. 
 
“It’s day to day. I want to play. I want to be out there but it’s the smart decision to hold out and wait until it’s 100 percent,” Thomas said during a Season of Giving event for children of the Military Friends Foundation held at the Celtics’ practice facility. “If it was a playoff game I would be out there for sure.”
 
However, after consulting with a number of medical personnel, Thomas decided the best thing for him and the Celtics was to sit out Friday’s game which, along with Wednesday in Orlando, will be the first two he has missed since the 2014-2015 season. 
 
Thomas said there’s no specific timetable for his return, but he said he is planning to travel with the team to Oklahoma City for their matchup against the Thunder on Sunday. 
 
“It’s eating me a live to sit, but I have to do what’s best for my body, I have to do what’s best for this team,” Thomas said. “I need to be 100 percent healthy to give this team what I can give them.”
 
The Celtics are hoping for similar success they had Wednesday in Orlando (a 117-87 victory) on Friday against Toronto.
 
“They played a hell of a game last night,” Thomas said. “They’ll be ready tomorrow.”
 
The fact that Thomas intends to travel with the team is a good sign that the groin injury isn’t too serious. 
 
If he doesn’t play at Oklahoma City, that likely means he’ll return to action on Wednesday at San Antonio. 
 
“I’m going to do what I can to get back out there on the court,” Thomas said. “I gotta be smart about this. I don’t want this to linger on this season.”
 
Replacing Smart in the lineup against Toronto will most likely be Marcus Smart. 
 
Smart, who has been a replacement starter at small forward and point guard this season, had 13 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals against the Magic.