In a clash of titans, the Boston Celtics are gearing up to face the Indiana Pacers in a pivotal matchup on Monday night, vying for a coveted spot in the NBA In-Season Tournament‘s semifinals. The stakes are high, with the winner earning a ticket to the glittering Las Vegas extravaganza and a shot at the inaugural NBA Cup, while the defeated will have to head home, their tournament dreams dashed.
As the Celtics pack their bags for Indiana, they carry the momentum of a decisive group stage performance. Their resounding victory over the Bulls last week not only secured their position atop Group C but also showcased their determination to make a serious run at the tournament title. The prospect of adding the first-ever NBA Cup to their illustrious collection is undoubtedly a motivating factor for the green and white.
On the other side of the court, the Pacers emerge from Group A as the dominant force in the East. With an impressive 4-0 record and a commanding plus–39 point differential, the Pacers cruised through the group stage, dispatching the Cavaliers, 76ers, Hawks, and Pistons with ease. Their consistency earned them the two-seed in the East, while the Celtics settled for the three-seed, boasting a 3-1 record with a plus-27 differential.
The Celtics’ dominance over the Pacers in their previous encounter adds another layer of intrigue to this matchup. A month ago, Boston handed Indiana a crushing 155-104 defeat at TD Garden, shooting nearly 57 percent from the floor and burying the Pacers with a barrage of three-pointers. Jayson Tatum‘s 30-point performance, backed by a stellar contribution from the bench, underscored the Celtics’ offensive prowess.
However, the Pacers were without their star player, Tyrese Haliburton, during that lopsided contest. Now, as the two teams prepare for a rematch, the Pacers face the uncertainty of Haliburton’s availability. The standout guard, averaging 27.0 points and 11.8 assists over 16 games, is questionable due to illness. His absence could deal a significant blow to the Pacers, who, despite an impressive 144-point outing without him against the Heat, rely heavily on his offensive firepower.
Not just Halliburton, Indiana has injury issues on him as well. Obi Toppin is questionable due to the left ankle sprain, and Jalen Smith is out for the rest of the games because of the left knee bone bruise. Injury problems, the Celtics are not left out as Kristaps Porzingis will be having his fourth absence consecutively for a strained calf.
It is a traditional battle between attackers and defenders as the teams face each other. With a 107.6 defensive rating, the Celtics boast the second-best defense in the league. Contrastingly, the Pacers have the highest points average, scoring at 128.8 points per game. These conflicting styles are, again, yet another dimension to the suspense created by the high-stakes match itself.
On Monday night, who goes where in the tournament depends on the result of this clash. The winner qualifies for the semi-final which will be played against the winner of Tuesday’s fixture between the Knicks–Bucks in Vegas on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the defeated will return home to Boston, awaiting the loser of Tuesday night’s game for a clash at TD Garden on Friday. As the Celtics and Pacers prepare for this critical matchup, the basketball world eagerly anticipates the drama and excitement that will unfold on the hardwood in Indiana.