The daily NBA preview takes it to the rim with tips for an Eastern Conference duel between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers.
11:00 (AEDT), Thu 12th Dec @ Bankers Life Fieldhouse
History: Played 206: Celtics 115 V Pacers 91
Last meeting: April 21, 2019 (playoffs): Celtics 110 d Pacers 106 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Final Thoughts: Indiana and Boston lock horns for the first time since the Celtics disposed of the Pacers 4-0 in last season’s Eastern Conference First Round playoff series.
Both sides have started the season solidly. The 15-9 Pacers are sixth in the Eastern Conference, while the 17-5 Celtics sit second.
The Pacers will be eager to notch a big scalp after losing two of their last three games, going down to the Pistons and Clippers either side of a one-point win over the struggling Knicks. None of their wins so far this season have come against teams currently ranked higher than sixth in either conference.
But it can be argued Indiana have overachieved thus far. With big changes over the summer and All-Star Victor Oladipo still out injured, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner are the only regulars remaining from last season.
TJ Warren has emerged as a key piece at small forward. He has put up 23-plus points in six of the Pacers last nine games.
After a patchy finish to November, the Celtics have won their last four. Convincing home wins over the highly-rated Nuggets and Heat fed into a 22-point victory against the Cavaliers two days ago.
Gordon Hayward retuned from a 12-game layoff against the Cavs. Meanwhile, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been holding down the fort superbly.
Including last season’s playoffs sweep, the Celtics have won 12 of their last 15 against the Pacers. Boston have also won seven of their last eight in Indianapolis.
But the Pacers boast a solid 9-3 home record this season. Perfect at TD Garden, the Celtics are 7-5 on the road losing four of their last six.
Until Indiana prove their can knock off one of the NBA’s big dogs, however, narrow underdogs Boston – the third-best defensive team in the league – shape as the value pick in this one.
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