Game #27 Preview: Expect a Blowout
Indiana Pacers @ Boston Celtics
Tuesday, December 22
7:30 PM EST
TD Banknorth Garden place
I’ll actually be at the game tonight so be sure to follow all my Twitter updates from @8pts9secs live from the site of this probable ass-kicking. The Pacers played perhaps their best game of the year when they knocked off Boston’s finest in November, so I suppose it is possible that this lowly Indy squad has the keys to the Celtics rollerskates.
But the more logical side of my brain thinks that the much more likely case is that (a) the Pacers had a great night the last time these two teams met, (b) the NBA is weird, and (c) these now-way-more-dominant-looking Celtics will finish the season with a 3-1 record over a team this bad.
I mean, just look at the numbers above. Even if you aren’t that familiar with some of the advanced numbers — or simply disregard them as poppycock — there are more firsts on the Celtics side than a full day’s worth of comments on Ball Don’t Lie. (Zing! That’s a burn, Skeets and Dwyer.) And the Pacers side features a whoooooole lot of categories where they rank in the mid-to-late 20s.
The positives for Indy all come on the defensive side of the court, but even their decent numbers pale in comparison to Boston’s defensive prowess. The Celtics are either the best or second-best (to the Lakers) defensive team by most quantitative metrics. The play slow and don’t let the opposition score many points. In fact, they only give up precisely 1 point per possession. (Thus, their defensive rating of 100.0 points per 100 possessions.)
Meanwhile, the Pacers only manage to score 1 point per possession. (Thus, their offensive rating of 100.7 points per 100 possessions.) And while this is a really pathetic output for an NBA offense, think about this: They have put up such terrible numbers despite the fact that 11 of their 26 games have come against the wretched defenses of Toronto, Memphis, Sacramento, Golden State (twice), New Jersey (twice), New York (twice) and Washington (twice) — teams that rank 30th, 28th, 26th, 25th, 23rd, 22nd and 20th in their ability to prevent the opposition from scoring.
We’re already 26 games deep in the season, so the schedule has started to even out for the most part. Indeed, the Pacers has also faced some elite defenses as well, going up against Boston, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Dallas, Orlando and Portland (all of which are in the top 10). But with 11 games facing bottom-of-the-barrel defenses vs. only 7 games facing top top-of-the-barrel defenses, it means that Indy’s atrocious offensive stats could actually (somehow) still get worse as the schedule continues.
Five Other Things
(1) The statistical disparity is obviously much less drastic than the personnel disparity here. Indiana is likely going to need some unusually poor shooting nights out of at least a few of The Big 3 Plus Rondo & Perk if they expect to win.
(2) KG looked depressingly old and in-agile (perhaps a word) early in the season to the point that I made a joke at some point during Boston’s terrible near-loss to the Knicks where I misappropriated the quote “Man, KG looks really old” to Tim Duncan (who was looking even older at the time.) And while Garnett certainly couldn’t be mistaken for a 24-year-old, he does look a lot more mobile of late — and has been much more productive, shooing an impressive 64.2% in 9 December games on his was to 17.4 ppg in just 30 mpg.
(3) In case you missed it, the Celtics just recently finished an 11-game win streak. So regardless of one minor stumble of late (they lost to Philly by 1), they are playing the best basketball of any team in the Association.
(4) In good news, the Celtics blew out Minnesota on Sunday and are likely looking ahead to their Friday bout with the reigning Eastern Conference champion Magic. Considering that game is not only a marquee national TV match up with Orlando on Christmas but that it kicks off an onerous three-games-in-four-nights stretch for Boston — in addition to the fact that the players may have a lot of holiday/family thoughts on their minds even today — this has all the makings of a proverbial “trap game.” If the Pacers come out blitzing and play an inspired first half, it’s possible that they can convince the Celtics that putting forth the energy needed for a comeback is not worth the effort. If so, maybe this can become the new Pacers marketing slogan. “The Indiana Pacers: Where Hoping that Santa Claus and Dwight Howard Distract Our Opponents Happens.”
(5) Rajon Rondo is probably a lot better than you realize. This kid is special. I’m both afraid of what he might do tonight and curious as to what it might be like to have an elite point guard. Miss ya, Mark Jackson.