Pacers-Celtics Preview

The Boston Celtics are already missing NBA assist leader Rajon

Rondo and might be ready to add a fourth center to their list of

walking wounded.

Those who remain in the lineup are making the slew of injuries

easy to forget.

Boston’s Big Three and one of the league’s stingiest defenses

have kept the Celtics thriving during 12 straight wins, a run

they’ll look to extend to an NBA season-high 13 on Sunday afternoon

against the visiting Indiana Pacers.

Boston (21-4) hasn’t had Rondo for four games during its streak

and has been without Shaquille O’Neal for the past four contests,

while Jermaine O’Neal has been out since early November and

Kendrick Perkins likely won’t make his season debut until after the

All-Star break.

The Celtics certainly haven’t let those absences slow them down.

Boston has won by an average of 13.4 points while allowing 88.9

points per game during its streak, which it pushed to 12 with a

102-90 win over Atlanta on Thursday.

“What are you going to do? Quit? Put your clothes on and go

home?” Kevin Garnett said after finishing with 17 points and 14

rebounds – his third straight double-double. “That’s not what we do


“We are just out here grinding. There’s nothing else to say.

Every player is giving everything they have. In order for us to win

these games, we just have to give everything we have until we get

guys back.”

Rondo might not be back until early January, but Jermaine O’Neal

(knee) could return before Christmas after practicing Saturday.

Shaquille O’Neal (calf) is a game-time decision Sunday, as is

fellow center Semih Erden, who injured his groin Thursday while

making a fourth straight start in the middle. If neither can go,

Glen Davis – who’s averaged 15.0 points in his last 10 games –

would get the start.

The Celtics’ 12-game streak is tied for the league’s longest

this season with San Antonio (Nov. 1-24), Dallas (Nov. 20-Dec. 11)

and Miami, which beat Washington on Saturday to get to 12. The

Spurs and Mavericks both lost at home in their quest for No.


There’s little reason to believe the Pacers (12-13) have what it

takes to knock off Boston. The Celtics have taken nine of 10 in the

series at TD Garden, with the wins coming by an average of 13.5


Indiana comes in feeling a little better about itself after

snapping an ugly three-game slide in which it averaged just 83.3


Danny Granger shot 29.6 percent in two of those losses and

missed another with a sore ankle, but helped the Pacers’ offense

bounce back Friday. He had 30 points and a season-high 12 rebounds

in a 108-99 win over Cleveland.

Indiana is 12-5 when Granger scores at least 18 points.

“I went through a stretch when I wasn’t being very aggressive or

assertive offensively,” Granger said. “I made a point to just go

out and try to be an assassin. That philosophy works better for me.

Other games I’ve been coasting. I have to be aggressive.”

Granger hasn’t enjoyed playing on the road against the Celtics

very much, however. The league’s 2008-09 Most Improved Player has

averaged 11.3 points in seven games at Boston – his lowest average

in any venue in the Eastern Conference.

If Shaquille O’Neal and Erden can’t play, the Pacers may try to

consistently feed the ball to Roy Hibbert. Indiana’s center had 23

points in his last trip to Boston, though that was a rare highlight

in a 122-103 loss March 12.