The Boston Celtics look to avoid moving closer to matching their longest losing streak in franchise history Tuesday when they visit an Indiana Pacers team they’ve defeated just five times in Indianapolis in nearly 18 years.
Boston (12-31) moved to within two losses of matching the team mark with its 11th consecutive defeat Sunday, 105-91 to Washington. It is the Celtics’ longest slide since dropping a franchise-worst 13 in a row during the 1996-97 season.
“At some point, we’re going to win a game,” coach Doc Rivers said. “Losing has to bother you enough that you get so (angry) that you do something about it. I understand they’ve got talent and all that stuff. But at some point, we have to demonstrate it.”
Boston hasn’t demonstrated an ability to beat Indiana on the road, losing 27 of 32 at Indianapolis since a 111-99 victory on March 16, 1989. The Pacers (23-21) come into this contest having won their last three at home.
Against the Wizards, Wally Szczerbiak had nine points in limited action for Boston after missing nine games with swollen ankles. Rivers said Szczerbiak will play between 20-25 minutes in his first few contests back.
“It was good to be back out there and compete and play with my teammates,” said Szczerbiak, averaging 16.6 points in just 25 games this season. “Unfortunately, they took the game over in the second half and we couldn’t figure out a way to break this losing streak.”
Boston owns the worst record in the Eastern Conference and is just 2-18 since a season-high five-game win streak from Dec. 9-16. Leading scorer Paul Pierce, averaging 26.6 points, has missed the last 19 games with a left foot injury.
Indiana failed to extend its win streak to a season-best four games Sunday, losing 95-87 on the road to Detroit after getting outscored 27-12 in the first quarter.
“We made plays, but we kind of ran out of steam late in the game,” said Jermaine O’Neal, who led all scorers with 26 points and added 12 rebounds and five blocks. “That happens when you have to keep fighting an uphill battle against a team like Detroit. They made plays, too.”
“Coach (Rick Carlisle) said that the team doesn’t show a lot of emotion at times, but we believe that we can still come back,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal helped the Pacers come back from an early deficit at Boston on Jan. 10, scoring 23 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in Indiana’s 97-84 victory. The Celtics beat the Pacers 114-88 in the first meeting between the teams this season on Nov. 15.