Several major sports shows have identified the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics as the two biggest threats to the seemingly unstoppable Miami Heat in the Eastern conference. On Wednesday night, they face each other in an interesting Eastern match-up. Both the Pacers and Celtics have found form at just about the right time.
Indiana are 7-3 in their last 10 and are looking for an eighth win in nine games. They moved above the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets into second place behind Miami in the East. They gave the Heat a tough series in 2012 and will be fancying themselves as the main contender in the conference again in 2013.
The Pacers are looking for their first Central division title since 2003-04. This is a team that has won 21 of their past 24 at home. They are known for owning one of the best and toughest defenses in the NBA. David West, Paul George and Roy Hibbert form one of the strongest front courts in the league. West is averaging 24 points per game over the past four games and has generally emerged as a serious offensive player during the course of this season.
Meanwhile, youngsters Lance Stephenson and Paul George just continue to go from strength to strength. Injury problems do continue to play arguably the team’s best scorer in Danny Granger though. Granger didn’t practice and is doubtful for tonight’s game against Boston. Frank Vogel won’t be risking Granger either considering the stakes coming in the NBA postseason.
Indiana faces a Boston team that is also on a roll. The Celtics are looking to win their fourth straight and impressed on a recent Western road swing. Avery Bradley is arguably one of the best shutdown guards in the NBA, and he is playing better offense now as well. Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green and Paul Pierce have been managing the front court successfully and have actually been more involved offensively since top player Rajon Rondo suffered a major injury.
Doc Rivers has switched this team up and the Celtics will compete defensively and physically with Indiana in this game. It should be noted that Boston may currently sit in seventh place in the East, but they are only 1.5 games back from Chicago in fourth place. Rivers and his roster will know that they have a legitimate shot at winning home court advantage in the NBA playoffs.
The Pacers will have to deal with a balanced Boston offense and it won’t be easy. Jordan Crawford has proven to be an excellent pick-up for the C’s and he has added a significant scoring boost to this roster.
Betting Preview: Indiana (-9) vs. Boston
The chances of the Pacers winning this game are pretty decent. They are a tough team with the likes of George and West playing great offensive ball. However, the Celtics are still not quite getting the respect that they deserve. Bradly, Crawford and Courtnay Lee are running a strong back-court, while the front court has the physicality, defensive prowess and rebounding to compete with this tough Indiana squad.
The right pick is to select Boston on the nine-point spread. They should beat the spread and are a decent bet to actually cause an upset here especially if Granger is sidelined as is expected.
The Pick: Boston (+9)