The Boston Celtics are already missing NBA assist leader Rajon
Rondo and might be ready to add a fourth center to their list of
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
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
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.