Fri, 08 Dec 2023

Celtics chasing top seed, Pacers 10th in clash

Field Level Media
24 Mar 2023, 06:40 GMT+10

The Indiana Pacers are hoping to have All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton in the lineup when they face the Boston Celtics on the road Friday night.

Haliburton was originally listed as questionable for Wednesday's 118-114 victory at Toronto but was ruled out just before tipoff and missed his sixth consecutive game with a right ankle injury. The Pacers have a 3-3 record during that stretch.

Indiana (33-40) lost nine of 10 games during a three-week stretch in January, when Haliburton was out with a sprained left elbow.

"With him out, (rookie guard Andrew Nembhard) is getting a great chance to play a lot of minutes at point, which is good for him," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said earlier this week. "It's been much more challenging when Tyrese has been out of the lineup. I don't think that's any news flash. But we are where we are."

Haliburton, 23, is averaging 20.8 points, 10.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game in 54 starts this season. He had 22 points and 14 assists when the Celtics beat the Pacers 142-138 in overtime on Feb. 23.

Nembhard scored 25 points and had 10 assists in Indiana's victory over Toronto.

Indiana can qualify for the play-in tournament that will determine the final two playoff teams in the Eastern Conference, but it needs to gain ground -- and hold it -- during its final nine games of the regular season. The Pacers are 1 1/2 games behind the Chicago Bulls for the 10th and final spot.

Jayson Tatum scored 36 points for the Celtics (50-23) when they completed a six-game road trip by beating the Sacramento Kings 132-109 on Tuesday. Boston went 4-2 on the trip.

"That looked like the team I recognized," Boston's Jaylen Brown said. "We came out, we played 48 minutes, we didn't take our foot off the gas. We took care of business. Ended the road trip well. Get back home and take care of business again. ...

"(The victory was) super important. We dropped a couple of games on this trip that we probably shouldn't have. The Sacramento Kings have been playing good basketball, so we wanted to come in here and make a little bit of a statement."

Celtics center Robert Williams returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing eight games with a hamstring injury. He came off the bench and had six points and seven rebounds in just under 21 minutes against the Kings.

The Celtics have nine games remaining, six of which are at home. Boston is trying to catch Milwaukee and earn the top seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs.

"If it wasn't nine games before the regular season was over and we weren't in first place the entire year, if this road trip was at the beginning of the year and we went 4-2, everybody would be happy," Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said. "We have to maintain a level of perspective (and) understand that this was a hard trip."

Friday's game will be the third meeting between the clubs. The Pacers won the first matchup 117-112 in Boston on Dec. 21 and the Celtics notched a 142-138 road overtime win on Feb. 23.

--Field Level Media

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