Celtics-Pacers In-Season Tournament Preview: 3 Biggest Keys to Watch on Monday

With a victory over Indiana, Boston would face Knicks or Bucks in East semifinal on Thursday

Jrue Holiday will have his work cut out for him when he goes up against Tyrese Haliburton, who is averaging 27.0 points and 11.8 assists this season.
Jrue Holiday will have his work cut out for him when he goes up against Tyrese Haliburton, who is averaging 27.0 points and 11.8 assists this season. / Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
1 of 2
Next

While it took everything they had, the Boston Celtics found a way to advance to the quarterfinals of the inaugural NBA in-season tournament.

Boston survived the group stage by beating the Chicago Bulls 124-97 last Tuesday, a victory that left the Celtics with a 3-1 record and a plus-27 point differential in the opening round of the tournament.

Both the Magic (plus-22 point differential) and Nets (plus-20) also finished 3-1 within East Group C, but the three-way tie between Boston, Orlando and Brooklyn meant that point differential would determine the winner of the group.

If only one other team had matched the Celtics by winning three of its four games, head-to-head record would have come into play. Boston defeated the Nets, but it lost to the Magic in round-robin action.

But the Celtics just squeaked by, setting up Monday's meeting with the Indiana Pacers in the single-elimination quarterfinals.

Boston put up its second-most points in a single game in franchise history in a 155-104 drubbing of Indiana back on Nov. 1, but here's what to watch for in the rematch:

1. Tyrese Haliburton Stealing the Show

Haliburton missed the Nov. 1 clash with the Celtics due to a right ankle sprain, but since then, he's been incredible.

In 13 games since sitting out against Boston, Haliburton has averaged 28.6 points, 11.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds while shooting 53.2 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from beyond the arc. He has recorded 10 double-doubles during that span and has 13 on the season.

However, the 23-year-old is at risk of being inactive against the Celtics once again, as he is currently listed as questionable due to an upper respiratory infection. Should Haliburton end up getting shelved, Andrew Nembhard and Bruce Brown could see increased roles in the backcourt.

While Haliburton's absence would make it easier for Boston to come out of Indianapolis with a win, Celtics fans should be rooting for him to play. In addition to being one of the most exciting players to watch this season, Haliburton would also provide Jrue Holiday and Derrick White with a hefty challenge, and it would be interesting to see how that duo stacks up against one of the best playmakers in the league.