The 36-34 Indiana Pacers visit the 45-26 Boston Celtics on today in what could be a first-round postseason matchup (7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday). The two teams have already matched up twice this season in Indianapolis, with the Celtics winning by single digits both times.
The Pacers are on a remarkable run of play since the All-Star break, but not in a particularly good or bad way. Indiana has alternated wins and losses every single contest for the past 32 days and is now coming off a win against the Utah Jazz on Monday. If the trend continues, the team is looking at a loss to Boston tonight.
That outcome would be extremely helpful for the Celtics, who are only two games out of the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed. They have a legitimate chance at catching the Cavaliers, who have been slipping on defense for a while now and would really appreciate a win against a fellow Eastern Conference team.
Boston is the obvious favorite in this game, but some factors could lead to an upset. Before we settle on this preview’s betting predictions and picks, let’s ask three questions leading up to the contest that will go a long way in deciding whether the Celtics hold serve on their home floor.
Which Team Will Choose to Attack the Glass?
This Wednesday night matchup is one between two playoff teams who have a terrible time rebounding the ball. The Celtics and Pacers are 26th and 27th, respectively, in the league in rebound percentage.
Why? Both squads have opted for faster, more athletic frontcourts at the expense of its ability to recover misses. The Celtics’ Al Horford and Amir Johnson scare nobody underneath the basket, and the Pacers’ Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young aren’t formidable once shots go up, either.
When these teams do fare well on the glass, they tend to win. Whichever team feels like being more physical on the boards and gets more help from its guards coming in from the perimeter will probably win the game.
Can the Pacers Prevent the Celtics from Hiding Isaiah Thomas on Defense?
The Celtics’ defensive strategy when Thomas is on the floor is no secret – they like to hide him on the other team’s least dangerous perimeter offensive player. The All-Star point guard’s 5’9” size makes it a struggle for him to cover anyone who has a significant amount of skill scoring the ball.
Against the Pacers’ starting lineup, that player is likely C.J. Miles. Jeff Teague is close to being an All-Star level point guard and Paul George would destroy IT with his 6’9” frame and diverse offensive game. But even Miles is a burly 6’6” and 225 pounds and has enough of a post game to punish the Celtics for that strategy. If he (or whoever IT guards) is aggressive, Boston will have difficulty defending Indiana.
This is where I feel the Pacers could have their biggest edge. The Celtics to play their offensive leader, but that player happens to be someone you can pick on when he’s on defense. Indiana is uniquely equipped with its starting lineup to challenge the Celtics’ defensive strategy.
Will the Celtics’ Home-Court Advantage Play a Big Role?
This is one of the Celtics’ main trump cards in this matchup, aside from the fact that they have a more balanced roster and better coaching.
Boston is a juggernaut on its home floor, with a record of 24-9 at the TD Garden. Indiana weirdly has an issue with playing on other teams’ floor, as its 11-24 road record demonstrates. It is not what you would expect out of a playoff team.
If the Celtics’ crowd gets into this one at all, it could spur on a fiery Celtics team to a win over a Pacers squad that folds easily when its opponents get a boost from its home crowd.
Our Preview’s Indiana Pacers vs Boston Celtics Betting Picks & Predictions
The Celtics are the better team and are playing in the more advantageous location today. Indiana has had trouble stringing together any consecutive wins for a long time, and Boston does it frequently.
Boston should have the advantage when both benches are in, and the team should score enough with Isaiah Thomas on the floor to make up for its defensive disadvantage. So here are my predictions for tonight’s NBA game with betting picks:
- The Celtics are favorite by eight points with the U.S. sportsbooks. That’s close to where I expected the margin to be, but I still lean toward Boston and its better roster and home-court advantage. Bet on Boston Celtics -8pts @ -105 with Bovada, BetOnline or MyBookie.
- The over-under for this game is 208.5, which is a slightly below average line. However, both these teams play at an average pace, Indiana is a slightly better defensive team than offensive and the Celtics are slightly better on offensive than defensive. Add all that up, and I would advise betting the over and expecting a total more like 210 or 212. Go over 208 total points to be scored with BetOnline @ -110 betting odds. It is over 208.5pts with MyBookie and Bovada has not priced the total up yet.