There's no mystery concerning the main story line of Friday night's game. The Celtics have lost four straight. They need a win in the worst way, and they need a win just to match last year's 15-17 start, a start they vowed not to get out to this season. It only gets harder for the Celtics with a game in Atlanta Saturday night and one against the first-place Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Monday.
The Celtics are looking up at the Pacers, who have risen to fourth place in the Eastern Conference having won 9 of their last 11 games. Indiana is playing without Danny Granger and playing very well. The Celtics, meanwhile, have been outscored by an average of 19.7 points in their last four games.
Here are the details for Friday night's game:
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
Records: Celtics (14-17), Pacers (19-13)
Broadcast info:CSNNE (Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn), WEEI/93.7 FM (Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell)
Celtics: PG: Rajon Rondo SG: Avery Bradley SF: Paul Pierce PF: Kevin Garnett C: Jason Collins
Pacers: PG: D.J. Augustin SG: Paul George SF: Lance Stephenson PF: David West C: Roy Hibbert
Another big test: It doesn't get any easier for the Celtics frontcourt. Roy Hibbert and David West are two of the more skilled big men in the NBA on the offensive end (though Hibbert's numbers are down a little this season -- he's shooting 40 percent from the field). West will draw his man away from the hoop and is also a tough load down low. It will be interesting to see how Jared Sullinger matches up with West when he's in the game.
Sully's minutes: Speaking of Sullinger, he's got to play more minutes. The rookie played just 19 minutes vs. Memphis Wednesday night after getting into early foul trouble and eventually fouling out. The C's need his toughness on the floor, and he's got to find a way to stay out there.
Defense: The Celtics can't allow Indiana to shoot 61 percent in the first half like the Grizzlies did the other night. Avery Bradley talked after that game about playing defense on a string. Let's see some of it.