History suggests Celtics will defeat Pacers
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BOSTON -- If recent history holds up, the Indiana Pacers will lose to the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on Wednesday night.
The Pacers, currently holding the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, lost Feb. 16 to start a run of 14 games alternating wins and losses.
They won Monday night, defeating the Utah Jazz at home 107-100, and come to Boston with a 36-34 record -- and to visit a team that has won 11 of its last 12 home games, capped by Monday night's 110-102 victory over the Washington Wizards.
Jeff Teague led the Pacers with 21 points, five rebounds and five assists Monday.
"We played well tonight, we played hard, we were a group out there," Teague said. "Defensively, I think we did a really great job."
The Celtics, shaking off a bad loss at Philadelphia on Sunday, got Isaiah Thomas back from a two-game absence (knee) and led throughout the second half -- by as many as 20 -- to score a big win in the battle for second place in the East.
The win moved then 2 1/2 games ahead of the Wizards in the 2-3 battle and also left Boston two games behind the conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers.
"It was a tough loss in Philly," said Thomas, who returned with 25 points. "I wasn't there but I watched the game and could tell it was a tough loss. In back-to-back you can forget about the first game a focus on the next one."
The Celtics clearly weren't focused on the 76ers, but they also didn't have Thomas. Without him, their run of 26 straight games with at least 10 3-pointers (one shy of the NBA record) ended and they hit only 13 (on 58 tries) in the two games.
They were 10 of 33 on Monday night -- not a great percentage but enough to raise the home record to 24-9 in the first contest of a six-game homestand (and nine of the last 12 at home).
The Celtics won both games against the Pacers this season -- both in Indianapolis. On Nov. 12, Thomas scored 23 to lead his team 105-99. Then, they picked up a 109-102 victory on Dec. 22 as Thomas, the NBA's leading fourth-quarter scorer, tallied 14 of his 28 after halftime.
"Fourth quarter ain't for everybody," Thomas said that night. "That's when it really matters. I just embraced the opportunity. ... I love when the game is close -- I want to be that type of guy. I just do what I've always done, I guess."
Teague had 31 points Dec. 22. He averages 13.8 points and 5.1 assists in 26 career regular-season games versus Boston and was also part of the Atlanta Hawks team that bounced the Celtics from the playoffs in the first round last season. He averaged 16.5 points and six assists and had a pair of 23-point games in the six-game series.
Thomas averages 27.3 points in 13 regular-season games against the Pacers and had a 42-point game in the playoff series. But he also went 3 for 12 and scored seven points in the Game 5 loss that put his team on the brink of elimination.
He was 3 for 18 from 3-point range over the last three games of the series as the Hawks dedicated their defense to making things tough on him.
Updated March 21, 2017