Welcome to the Garden, where the Boston Celtics (59-15) will take on the Indiana Pacers (31-43) at 7 p.m. (note the early start time for national television).
Despite being 12 games under .500, the Pacers are just three games out of a playoff spot in the East. The Atlanta Hawks (34-40) currently sit in the eighth spot. Washington, Toronto, and Philadelphia are comfortably in the next three spots, and their playoff chances seem secure.
The Pacers have won six of their last eight games to get back into the playoff discussion. Jermaine O’Neal returned for the Miami game after a 33-game absence and scored nine points. Mike Dunleavy Jr. has had a nice season for Indiana, raising his scoring average from 12.8 points per game last season to 18.7 points per game this season.
But those are the bright spots. What the latest surge means for Indiana is that, if the Pacers make the playoffs, they’ll face the NBA’s best team in the first round. Not exactly a great reward.
The Celtics can achieve their 12th 60-win season in franchise history with a win tonight. They lead the Eastern Conference by six games with eight to play. They haven’t had a 60-win season since 1985-86, when they won their last NBA title.
Leon Powe, Brian Scalabrine, and P.J. Brown are currently warming up on the parquet floor for the Celtics. Brown is deadly with that midrange jumper during warm-ups, but he’s shooting just 28 percent in 11 games this season.
The locker rooms are open early for the early start time. We’ll have plenty of news and notes in a bit.