Celtics Hoping to Get Back on Track vs the Pacers

Indiana Pacers (29-38) at Boston Celtics (47-18)
Wednesday, March 16
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #66, Home Game #35
TV:  CSNNE, FSI, NBA-LP 753/754
Radio:  WEEI,  WFNI
TD Garden
Referees:  Scott Foster,  Tony Brothers,  Violet Palmer 

This is the 3rd meeting between the Celtics and Pacers this season.  The Celtics won the first two games 99-88 and 95-83 and they have one more game coming up on March 28.  Since the last time these two teams met, the Pacers fired head coach Jim O'Brien and his assistant Frank Vogel took over the job.  Larry Bird also questioned the heart of his players recently.    The Pacers are coming off the high of beating the Knicks in a home and home series.  

The Celtics are coming off a loss to the Nets and have lost 3 of their last 4 games.   The Celtics have had a day off while the Pacers are playing in the second of back to back games.  The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games and the Pacers are 3-7 in their last 10 games.   The Celtics are 28-6 at home while the Pacers are 11-23 on the road.
  The Celtics are 10-2 overall and 6-0 at home vs the Pacers since the beginning of the 2007-08 season when KG and Ray Allen joined the team.
There will be plenty of excitement in the Garden as Wednesday is Mike and Tommy night, honoring Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn for their 30 years together broadcasting Celtics games.  That should give the Celtics added incentive to get a win in this one.
  The Celtics are now half a game back of the Bulls for the top seed and just 2 games ahead of Miami for the 3rd seed.
 The Pacers are half a game in front of the Bobcats for the 8th seed so this game has playoff implications for both the Celtics and the Pacers and we should see a strong effort from  both teams.  However, lately the Celtics don't seem to have any sense of urgency and they have been losing on a regular basis to teams they should easily beat.    Since this could be a first round preview, the Celtics need to bring some urgency and make a statement with a strong win.

Probable Starting Matchups
Rajon Rondo  vs  Darren Collison  

Shooting Guard
Ray Allen   vs  Paul George  

Small Forward
Paul Pierce  vs  Danny Granger  

Power Forward
Kevin Garnett  vs  Tyler Hansbrough

Nenad Krstic  vs  Roy Hibbert   

Boston Bench Mob  
Glen Davis
Avery Bradley
Sasha Pavlovic
Troy Murphy
Jeff Green
Delonte West
Carlos Arroyo

Jermaine O'Neal (knee) out
Delonte West (wrist) probable
Shaquille O'Neal (Achilles)  out
Rajon Rondo (ankle, knee, plantar fasciitis)  probable
Von Wafer (calf) out

Pacers Bench
Solomon Jones
James Posey
Dahntay Jones
TJ Ford
Jeff Foster
AJ Price
Lance Stephenson
Brandon Rush
Josh McRoberts

Mike Dunleavy (thumb)  out
Key Matchups
Paul Pierce vs Danny Granger
Danny Granger is a tough player who can hit from outside as well as take the ball to the basket. He always seems to play extra hard vs the Celtics.    Pierce is coming off a sub-par shooting night and should be ready for a big game in this one.

Rajon Rondo vs Darren Collison
Rondo has been going through a kind of slump since the trade.  With the return of Delonte West and the play of Arroyo, Doc can maybe give Rondo some rest until he gets over what ails him.  As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics.  If he plays, the Celtics need him to snap out of his slump and be the leader of the team again.  When Rondo is aggressive, he makes the Celtics unbeatable.  When he plays like he has been, the team is more like a rudderless ship with no real direction.

Honorable Mention
Kevin Garnett vs Tyler Hansbrough
In the Pacers win over the Knicks Hansbrough had 30 points but just 3 rebounds.  He is averaging 25 points and 7 rebounds in his last 5 games.   KG got off to a strong start vs the Nets but then the Celtics went away from getting him the ball.  Hopefully KG will have a strong game and the team will stick with what works.

Keys to the Game
Defense - The Celtics defense has been up and down.  Against the Bucks it was up and they pretty much shut them down.  Against 4 of the other last 5 teams they have faced, it was down and they came away with a loss.  The Celtics have to get back to defense first and play team defense from beginning to end and not allow teams to get open looks all game and then try to lock it down in the 4th quarter.   That gives teams confidence and it's a strategy that hasn't been working.

Rebound -  Winning the rebounding battle prevents second chance points  and tip ins for the Pacers as well as limits fast break opportunities.   When the Celtics put out the effort on the boards, it often translates to other areas of the game as well.  

Ubuntu -  With all of the new players and injuries it's easy to forget about ubuntu.   But the Celtics must remember the principle that  led them to the 2008 title.  We not me.   Too often lately the team has lapsed into hero ball instead of playing as a team and making the extra trade and finding the open man and playing defense as a team.  They have to re-develop chemistry and get back to playing team ball.

Hustle and Energy
-  The Celtics need to bring some hustle and effort to the game.  They have to go after loose balls and chase down rebounds.  In their recent losses,  there were too many Celtics standing around while the other team dove for loose balls and chased down rebounds.

Official Report 

Scott Foster
Foster has officiated over 720+ regular season games and 25+ play-off games. Foster has 2 years officiating experience in the CBA. Prior to becoming an official, Foster modeled for department store mannequin mold makers. He came into the public eye as the best friend of former referee Tim Donaghy. In his book, Donaghy describes Foster as a very honest and good guy who knew nothing of his gambling. However, recently Donaghy described Foster as a company man who will do what is asked of him to keep his seniority among refs. Foster was also part of the Finals game 7 officiating crew that called the final quarter completely one sided. The Celtics are 1-2 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Foster on the court. In the 3 games Celtics opponents shot 20 more free throws than the Celtics. The Pacers are also 4-6 with Foster in their last 10 games. His home W/L record this season is 32-22.

Tony Brothers
Tony Brothers started his NBA career 14 years ago. His achievements in the league are 21 playoff games officiated. Before landing in the NBA he acquired officiating experience in the CBA, college basketball and high school basketball in Virginia. There are several articles about what a terrible ref Brothers is and detailing his misdeeds. He has angered a lot of fans of just about every team because of bad calls, no calls, and one sided officiating. The Celtics are 2-1 this season (with 13 fewer free throws than their opponents) and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Brothers on the court. The Pacers are 4-6 with Brothers in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 30-22.

Violet Palmer
Violet Palmer is the only woman officiating in the NBA. She has been there for 11 seasons already. Before the NBA, she accumulated officiating experience including 1 season in the WNBA, 7 years of USA basketball, 2 years in the CBA and 8 years as a collegiate referee. At one time Violet was the worst ref in the league. In one game Cedric Maxwell was moved to urge her to go back into the kitchen because her calls were so bad. She has had Tommy close to exploding over the years as well. She's improved a lot over the years and is no longer the worst ref in the league (that honor goes to Bennett Salvatore) but she's still bad. The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 6-4 over their last 10 games with Violet on the court. They shot 10 fewer free throws than their opponents in those games and in the Denver game she ignored a flagrant foul by KMart on KG that occurred right in front of her. The Pacers are also 6-4 over their last 10 with Violet. Her home W/L record this season is 28-19.

Home Game and Focus
The Celtics have taken care of their home court for the most part this season with just 6 losses on the parquet.  Hopefully having the crowd behind them will keep them focused on the game and give them the push they need to snap out of their slump.  It's also Mike and Tommy Night and they need to give them a win to remember on their night.