The first time that the Indiana Pacers took on the Boston Celtics, Boston blew out the Pacers 94-75 on the TD Garden home court. After a statement victory against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, and knowing that the Celtics will be playing their second road game in as many days, Indiana is determined not to let that happen again on Wednesday night.
The Pacers have established themselves as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, going 11-3 since the start of February. They've beaten the Heat and Knicks once each, and the Bulls twice, in that span.
That success has come under the leadership of David West, who is a bona fide number one option and double-double threat for Indiana. West is averaging 17.7 points per game on a .493 shooting percentage for the season, but he posted numbers of 20.7 and .541 in February.
And West is only getting hotter. On March 1, in a 93-81 win over Toronto, West posted his first double-double in over a month, with 15 points and 11 rebounds. On Sunday's win against Chicago, he dropped a season-high 31 points and added seven rebounds. He's playing as well as he has all season, which is bad news for anybody trying to defend him.
When West is playing well, it opens up the rest of the team to have strong performances behind him. Point guard George Hill added 21 points, six rebounds, and five assists on Sunday, while Roy Hibbert and Paul George each added double-doubles in the victory. When the Pacers can spread shots around like that, they're nearly unbeatable.
Meanwhile, the Celtics have a few disadvantages heading into the game. They've only played three games in the past nine days before Wednesday night. Though Boston has won all three games, playing on back-to-back nights after the team hasn't been in action may not be the formula for winning: they haven't won back-to-back games since February 6-7, and they haven't won road games on consecutive days yet this season.
Avery Bradley had an incredible game against Philadelphia on Tuesday night, scoring a season-high 22 points and tying a season high with five assists. But he also had four turnovers, another season high, suggesting that he still has room for improvement as a ball-handling point guard.
Unfortunately for Bradley, Indiana's defense is as strong as any team in the league; at 89.6 points allowed per game, they rank second in the NBA to only Memphis in that category. They also lead the league with 45.7 rebounds per game and rank third in blocks with 6.7 per game. That's not good news for Boston if Bradley can't spread the ball around.
Boston has been an up-and-down team in the weeks since Rajon Rondo's season-ending injury, but the Pacers have been trending upward for the past month or so. There's not much reason to suggest that the inconsistent Celtics can knock off Indiana on their home court—even when both teams have been playing well of late.
For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.