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Pacers Looking to Inch Toward First Central Division Title in 9 Years

The Indiana Pacers take on the Boston Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis Wednesday night at 7pm. Indiana is looking good at second place in the Eastern Conference, and winning their first Central Division title in nearly a decade is starting to look like a distinct possibility.

But to do that, they’ll need to first get past the Celtics.

Wednesday night’s matchup could be a preview of things to come in the playoffs. Boston is riding a 3-game win streak into Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and is looking to make it an even four. In fact, their recent win in Philadelphia put them just 1½ games away from the fourth seed.

 Meanwhile, Indiana is looking for its eighth win in 9 games after a solid, 97-92 victory over Chicago last Sunday. With that win they pushed their lead in the Central division to four games over the Bulls. They are also ½ game ahead of New York in the East.

There’s little doubt the Pacers have been good at home, having won 21 of their last 24. They also rank second in the league defensively, yielding just 89.6 points per game. A big part of this defensive fortitude is attributable to the growth of David West, who has allowed a mere .689 points per play, second in the league only to Milwaukee guard Marquis Daniels. The Pacers also have the best league’s best transition defense and the second best half-court defense. Numbers aside, there is a case to be made that Indiana has the league’s best defense, all things considered.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Pacers are not bad, but are also not setting the league on fire with an average of 0.892 points per play, 21st in the league overall. They have Paul George

Boston may want to reconsider running with smaller three-guard lineups, opting instead to go with bigger players like of D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph.

Expect a defensive battle in which no possession can be taken for granted. For Boston, the question is whether having played just 1 game in the last 7 days has shaken off enough rust. And while the Pacers have the second worst turnover percentage in the league (16.3), they have thus far more than offset this by playing excellent defense. Indeed, Boston will have to make the most of each possession to have any chance of scoring against this defense.

It remains to be seen whether Danny Granger will be ready to play after knee soreness sidelined him during the second half of Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bulls. But even if Granger isn’t ready to go, the younger players will still benefit from his presence. And if he can get back into top form, then look out, because the Pacers will be a force in the playoffs. Hopefully, Granger won’t have to rely on him coming back. Thus far, at least, they have held their own without him.

Mike Woods