Celtics-Pacers preview: No homecoming for Stevens

Celtics-Pacers preview: No homecoming for Stevens
December 22, 2013, 1:30 pm
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Brad Stevens is back in Indiana and will be surrounded by plenty of family and friends when the Boston Celtics face the Indiana Pacers tonight.

And it is that latter point, facing the Pacers, that will make this more of a business than pleasure trip.

"Certainly I will know a lot of people in the building," said Stevens, who grew up in Zionsville, Indiana, which is a suburb of Indianapolis. "It's a wonderful place, a wonderful place to be raised. As much as you look forward to that for the time we'll get to spend afterwards, if anybody watched [the Pacers] play, you'll know I'm not looking forward to the game."

The Pacers (21-5) have had the best record in the Eastern Conference most of the season, playing a suffocating brand of defense that has coincided with the emergence of Paul George as a legit league MVP candidate.

So it won't necessarily be the kind of homecoming Stevens will get psyched about. That is, if he ever got psyched about such things.

"The bottom line is that it's an Indiana Pacers game and they are going to have great fan support and a great team," Stevens said. "I have said it before, this is the best Pacer team I have ever seen in my lifetime. That is a great challenge we have and as a competitor you always want to challenge yourself."

But, yeah, it'll be cool to see family and friends as well.

"The people that are going to be in that building that I know," Stevens said, "are really special family and that whole state and that whole city, is to us."

Here are more keys to tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:  Indiana is at its best when it slows the game down and creates a defensive slugfest. Pacer opponents are scoring a league-low 89.9 points per game this season. As for the Celtics, they are 0-8 when held to 89 points or less. But when they score 100 or more points, they are 7-1.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jeff Green vs. Paul George: This is the kind of matchup a slumping Jeff Green could use in order to get back on track. In Boston's last four games, he has averaged just 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. But he has been at his best when facing teams with established, elite wing players. When the Celtics played Indiana on Nov. 22, Green had 20 points. Two weeks earlier, he had 24 points against LeBron James and the Miami Heat, which included the buzzer-beating, game-winner.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Lance Stephenson has emerged as a tough cover for many teams this season because of his versatility. The 6-foot-5 guard has a pair of triple-doubles under his belt, the league's only player with more than one to his name this season. For the season, he's averaging 13 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.9 assists

STAT TO TRACK:  The corner 3-ball is becoming one of the more popular shots for teams to take, and few are as good at making it as Boston and Indiana. The Celtics are hitting 46.1 percent of their corner 3s, while the Pacers come in at 44.4 percent to rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in the NBA.