April 1, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo (9) looks to make a pass while guarded by Miami Heat forward/center Joel Anthony (50) during the first quarter at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Game Preview: Boston Celtics @ Indiana Pacers

Celtics (30-24, lost last 2) @ Pacers (34-21, won last 4)

Key Stats

Boston

* 91.37 points per game (27th in the NBA) vs. 89.83 points allowed per game (3rd)

* 45.7% FG (5th) vs. 42.00% FG allowed (1st)

* 38.54 rpg (30th) vs. 43.56 rebounds allowed (23rd)

* 23.52 apg (2nd) vs. 14.82 TO pg (17th)

Indiana

* 97.02 ppg (15th) vs. 94.09 points allowed (9th)

* 44.0% FG (21st) vs. 43.5% FG allowed (8th)

* 43.26 rppg (7th) vs. 41.89 rebounds allowed (16th)

* 18.38 appg (30th) vs. 14.22 TO pg (12th)

Position-by-position Matchups

PG-Rajon Rondo vs. Darren Collison

SG-Avery Bradley vs. Paul George

SF-Paul Pierce vs. Danny Granger

PF-Kevin Garnett vs. David West

C-Brandon Bass vs. Roy Hibbert

Key Reserves

Boston-Ray Allen, Ryan Hollins, Greg Stiemsma

Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, Leandro Barbosa, George Hill, Dahntay Jones, Lou Amundson

Injuries of note

Boston-Mickael Pietrus (concussion, out)

Indiana-None

Breakdown:

The Celtics are one of the shallowest and softest teams in the NBA. While they look like a “hard-nosed” defensive team on paper, their reputation for grittiness and determination is betrayed by their negative-5+ rebounding differential. They beat Miami, badly, recently, and have been “surging” into the #4 seed in the East, but the truth is, they have something like four quality wins on the season, and are by and large, over-the-hill pretenders.

The Celtics are 1-2 vs. Indiana this year, and all three of those games came in January, before the Pacers hit their stride, acquired Leandro Barbosa and became one of the most physically dominant teams in the NBA. While Indiana has its weaknesses (lack of experience, trouble maintaining leads and a debilitating proneness to shooting slumps to name a few), Boston has, as of yet, failed to exploit any of them to any real success.

Boston could very well start Avery Bradley at the two-guard, with Ray Allen, still in recovery mode, coming off the bench as he did Thursday. But that would be a tragically-bad decision, as Paul George out-sizes and out-classes Bradley, while Barbosa matches up just fine with Allen. The one obvious matchup advantage for Boston will be Rajon Rondo, who could very easily give Darren Collison the same star treatment that Russell Westbrook did last night, when he came very close to an easy-looking triple double.

Prediction: Pacers 92, Celtics 79

Can you tell that I’m not buying into the Celtics hype? Yes, Rondo is a stud, but that’s it, and his proclivity for mental lapses almost trumps his proclivity for statistical outbursts. Also, this has the potential to be a nightmare matchup for the vastly under-sized and under-talented Celtics “bigs” (who, beyond Kevin Garnett, consist of no one over 6’8 with any discernible talent). Had Indiana not come off a game the previous night vs. the best team in the league, they’d eviscerate the Celtics by 30. Then again, I’m never surprised with an Indiana meltdown/letdown. We shall see.

Fantasy Outlook:

Rondo will very likely explode, but you have him in here anyway. Expect little from Brandon Bass, no matter how sexy you think you are for adding him to your roster a few weeks ago. He’s a low-volume rebounder whose recent steals/blocks numbers are an aberration. If someone in your league was dumb enough to drop Ray Allen, thinking he wouldn’t be effective during the fantasy playoffs, pick him up. He’s got plenty of threes left in the tank.

Hibbert, George, Granger and West could all have nice games. Start each with confidence. This team is not as good at defense as you think. The Pacers should score 90+ with relative ease. Individual fantasy impact will all depend on how well the Pacers points move the ball against the admittedly good defensive duo of Bradley and Rondo.

Lucas Klipsch believes in justice. Follow him on Twitter @LukeNukem317

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