The Boston Celtics (4-9, 2-3 home) host the Indiana Pacers (10-1, 4-1 away) on Friday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
CAN'T CATCH A BREAK: After closing out a (winless) three-game road trip with a loss to the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs, the Celtics return home to host the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers. San Antonio owned the second-best defensive rating in the league (91.9 points per 100 possessions) and Indiana is the only team in front of them (91.3). The Pacers allow a measly 0.821 points per possession, tops in the NBA, according to Synergy Sports data. Indiana is limiting opponents to 39.5 percent shooting overall and doesn't put the opposition on the foul line very often. The Pacers are limiting opponents to a league-best 87.2 points per game. For Boston's anemic offense, this means another daunting challenge while trying to snap a five-game losing streak.
GEORGE VS. GREEN: Indiana's Paul George is having a monster season, particularly on the offensive end where he's averaging 24.4 points on 46.5 percent shooting overall. The task of slowing him down will likely fall to Jeff Green, who has the length and athleticism to make him work. This is one of those nights where Green needs to bring his A-game on both ends of the court in order for Boston to have a chance. You'll remember his heroics in Indiana last year, sinking a late-game winner for one of the Celtics' most-exciting comebacks of the 2012-13 season.
GET KELLY GOING: Alright, so a frontline of David West and Roy Hibbert isn't the ideal combo to try to get your rookie center going offensively. But part of the reason first-year coach Brad Stevens shuffled Olynyk and Jared Sullinger to the starting lineup is their offensive potential (whether facilitating with their skilled passing, or using their range to spread the floor). Stevens remains adamant that the shots will eventually start falling for Olynyk and, if he can avoid foul trouble, one of these nights he's going to bust this rookie shooting slump.
WHAT ELSE?: For Stevens, this is a matchup against his "hometown" team. He'll have plenty of friends back home in Indianapolis watching from afar (if they haven't been keeping tabs via League Pass already). ... Brandon Bass has often struggled to find a rhythm off the bench, but the Celtics need him to be a second-unit spark if Olynyk and Sullinger are with the first unit. Bass can bring a defensive spark off the pine, but the Celtics need his scoring, too.