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
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2. Al Horford Holding Down the Post

Kristaps Porzingis has already been ruled out for the fourth consecutive game due to a left calf strain, leaving the door wide open for Horford to continue showing he's still got gas in the tank.

Horford, 37, has looked right at home in the starting lineup, averaging 14.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.3 blocks over the past three games. He most recently went for 20 points and six boards while going 7-for-9 from the field in Friday's 125-119 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

After some early-season struggles, Horford has been providing quality minutes with Porzingis sidelined. Question is, can he continue to do so? Hopefully the answer is yes, because the last thing that should be on Boston's mind is rushing Porzingis back.

3. Celtics' Defensive Intensity

Boston just allowed 119 points to a banged-up Philadelphia team missing Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, so how will it fare against the fast-paced, run-and-gun Pacers?

Indiana averages an NBA-best 128.8 points per game. If the season were to end today, the 2023-24 Pacers would go down as the highest-scoring team in league history.

As we all would have guessed, Aaron Nesmith, Buddy Hield and Obi Toppin would have most certainly been among those to outscore the Wilt Chamberlain-led Philadelphia Warriors of 1961-62 (125.4 points per game) and the Bill Russell-led Celtics of 1959-60 (124.5). The 1981-82 Denver Nuggets (126.5) and 1966-67 Sixers (125.2) also sported potent offenses.

Haliburton's availability will obviously have an impact on just how hard it is to contain Indiana, but regardless of if he plays or not, Boston is still going to have its hands full on Monday.

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