Celtics-Pacers preview: 'Next man up'

Celtics-Pacers preview: 'Next man up'
March 1, 2014, 11:00 am
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BOSTON — When the season began, Brad Stevens struggled at times finding an effective starting lineup.

The Celtics lineup remains in a state of uncertainty, although it has more to do with injuries now than inconsistent play.

"We've kind of been next man up all the time," said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. "It started with Rondo being out (while recovering from a torn right ACL injury). It's been that way where it has been a tough go about it."

Life won't get any easier for Boston tonight when they host the Indiana Pacers (44-13) who come in with the league's best record.

And making matters worst, the Pacers' strength - frontcourt size - is exactly where the Celtics (20-39) have been most affected by injuries.

Vitor Faverani (knee) and Kelly Olynyk (toe) are both out for tonight's game.

And Jared Sullinger is probable after having missed the last three because of a mild concussion.

Boston will also play without Gerald Wallace (torn meniscus, ankle) who may be lost for the rest of the season.

And it's not like the Celtics can bring in reinforcements. They just signed 6-5 guard/forward Chris Babb to a 10-day contract, bringing their roster to the NBA-maximum of 15 players.

"We are out of spots," Stevens said. "With Jared Sullinger being at least probable, you have four bigs and six perimeters with Babb in play. It's hard to play undersized especially against Indiana."

Here are some other keys to tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston will be challenged on just about every front imaginable tonight. They're going to have to rebound and try to run as much as possible. Because against a set Pacers defense, they won't have much of a chance to be successful.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jeff Green vs. Paul George

Green has been a different player of late, averaging 20.3 points in the month of February. George is the best player on the best team in the NBA, not only because of his scoring but also because of his ability to excel defensively as well.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:  This will be for many a first look at the Pacers with Evan Turner, a player the Celtics remember all too well. Then with the Sixers, Turner scored the game-winning basket  in a 95-94 Celtics loss on Jan. 29.

STAT TO TRACK: As much as the Celtics like Rajon Rondo's improved shooting, their best shot at pulling off an upset lies in his ability to get shots for his teammates. Boston is 3-4 this season when Rondo has 10 or more assists. On those nights when he has had less than that, the Celtics have lost all seven of those games.