Go small, or go home. Maybe that will become the mantra for the new small-ball Indiana Pacers.
Whenever 6-foot-11 power forward Troy Murphy returns to the lineup from injury, which isn't expected to happen even for tonight's colossal matchup against the Celtics, the Pacers may keep him on the bench at tip-off. The Pacers found extended success with the use of its nearly four-man guard lineup (with Roy Hibbert at center), which has contributed to its three-game winning streak. With Murph not expected to play tonight, however, the blue and gold will most likely leave star Danny Granger in the post to battle with Boston's front line of Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins tonight.
As Bruno points out in his game preview, the small lineup featuring Dahntay Jones instead of Murphy has had tremendous results on the defensive side of the ball. Bruno writes, "the smaller, quicker, more athletic group has been much better defensively, yielding 89.7 points on .397 shooting to opponents while producing 30 blocked shots and 26 steals." We haven't seen those types of numbers since Ron Artest was only one jump and punch away from the cuckoo's nest.
Coach Jim O'Brien said he would stick with the small lineup "unless you've got a better idea." Well, we don't. So stick with that, Jim. The Celtics are visiting Conseco "Reggie Miller" Fieldhouse on the end of a back-to-back where the Celts suffered a loss to the Hawks Friday night.
With Murph still out and point guard T.J. Ford listed as doubtful, this game is shaping up to be one of those "all hands on deck" energy games where Granger loses a few teeth and Tyler Hansbrough might make Garnett wear a mask for the rest of the season. I'm looking forward to this one. Check out some links after the jump.
- Mike Wells previews tonight's game by talking about the resurgence, or rebirth, of the team's tenacious defense during the past three wins. Wells notes that Boston is shooting a league-high 50 percent from the field this season, while the Pacers have held the past three opponents to 39.6 percent shooting. Something's gotta give.
- The IndyStar writes about a pair of siblings who are getting together for the weekend matchup between Boston-Indiana teams in the NBA (Saturday) and the NFL (Sunday).
- CBSSports previews the Celts-Pacers matchup.
- John Oehser offers up his coverage on Examiner.com of Mike Dunleavy's return to practice on a limited basis.
- Check out CelticsBlog for up-to-date news on the opposition throughout the day.
- I'll let Granger end this with his own quote previewing the matchup:
"They've got 11 All-Stars or whatever it is. They're shooting the ball ridiculously. They're one of the better defensive teams, which is why they're 8-1 (heading into a home game against Atlanta Friday night). Luckily, we're getting them on a back-to-back night so in a perfect world we'll get the win, also." -- Danny Granger