Celtics vs. Pacers In-Season Tournament prediction and preview

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Celtics vs. Pacers NBA In-Season Tournament quarterfinals preview

Indiana will host Boston in the quarterfinals of the NBA In-Season Tournament on Monday. The Pacers finished group play undefeated and scored the most points of any team in the group stage. The Celtics needed to defeat the Bulls by margin to win Group C by point differential over the Magic in the final game of group stage play. Indiana is hoping that this meeting goes differently than the earlier meeting this season between the two when Boston trounced the Pacers at TD Garden by 51 points.

 

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Boston Celtics at Indiana Pacers (-4.5, 236) – 12/4 at 4:30 pm ET

Indiana has been a fantastic story this season due to its offense. The Pacers average 124.3 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time; the next closest team are the 76ers at 121.0 points per 100 possessions. This unit leads the league in halfcourt offensive rating as well – they average 106.9 points every 100 plays against a set defense – but it is driven by its transition offense. Indiana is no lower than 10th in any offensive transition metric at Cleaning The Glass, and overall it adds the third-most points per 100 plays through transition offense this season. This pace and efficiency is a massive reason why the Pacers are 16-2 to the Over this season. 

However, there are two sides to every story. The other driving factor behind Indiana’s run of Overs is a defense which gives little resistance. Despite having a dominant offense that is 3.3 points ahead of the second-best team in the NBA the Pacers are only 13th in net rating (+1.8). It is because they allow 122.5 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time. In the regular season meeting between these two teams Boston torched that defense for 1.363 points per possession. It’s almost a certainty that the Celtics – who rank ninth in offensive rating in non-garbage time at 117.8 points per 100 possessions – will have success on offense here. The question is whether or not they can contain this offense like they did earlier this season.

Boston has allowed the second-fewest points in non-garbage time this season, limiting opponents to 107.7 points per 100 possessions. It is elite in every facet defensively. Specific to this matchup, the Celtics have allowed only 111.2 points per 100 plays in transition. Off of live rebounds they are eighth in defensive efficiency (115.0) and 11th in opponent points added per 100 possessions (1.1). 

It would seem that Boston is the perfect team to match up with Indiana. In the meeting with the Pacers this season, the Celtics used their elite transition defense to limit Indiana to 0.899 points per possession and 0.667 points per play in transition off live rebounds. The Pacers were short-handed in a big way though, as Tyrese Haliburton did not play. Haliburton improves Indiana’s offensive rating by 10.3 points every 100 possessions on the floor, and he greatly improves the Pacers’ efficiency in the halfcourt. 

Boston opened as 4.5-point favorites on Nov. 30 and there has been little movement, but that is largely due to the risk of betting a regular season matchup so far in advance. Indiana is looking for vengeance from an early season loss, and Kristaps Porzingis will not play for the Celtics as he continues to recover. Boston is also just 2-7-1 ATS on the road this season. Still, given how well the Celtics play on defense and their ability to take advantage of this defense, it is hard to look past Boston, even away from home.

Lean: Celtics (-4.5)