Pacers-Celtics Preview

The Associated Press

With their playoff seeds set, the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics don't plan on over-extending themselves before the postseason begins.

Multiple players on both teams could rest as visiting Indiana looks to avoid a fifth straight loss to Boston on Tuesday night.

The Central Division champion Pacers (49-31) are guaranteed the Eastern Conference's third seed after falling 90-80 to second-place New York on Sunday.

Indiana is on the verge of winning 50 games for the first time since 2003-04, though it has been struggling down the stretch. It is allowing 100.4 points per game - nearly 10 above its season average - while dropping four of five.

Paul George, the Pacers' leading scorer at 17.4 points per game, finished 3 for 12 from the field and 1 of 8 from 3-point range while scoring nine points Sunday. He's averaging 10.8 points and shooting a dismal 28.3 percent over the last five.

"We (aren't) satisfied with (the No. 3 seed),'' George said. ''Of course we felt we earned it playing throughout the year, but we haven't really earned it as far as getting the win and solidifying it ourselves. We're just not taking care of business.''

Coach Frank Vogel believes that's partly due to fatigue as the regular season draws to a close. Lance Stephenson scored 22 points Sunday and is averaging 16.0 over his last three, but the Pacers committed a season-worst 26 turnovers.

''Got a couple of guys banged up and a couple of guys with dead legs,'' said Vogel, whose team finishes the season Wednesday at home versus Philadelphia. ''Paul George's 3-point shot is not even close. He's been playing too many minutes. Boston's had the luxury to rest some guys. We're going to take advantage of that.''

Vogel didn't specify who will sit out, but he can likely prepare for Celtics coach Doc Rivers to play with a shorter bench as well.

Veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have been battling nagging injuries and sat out Friday's 109-101 loss to Miami. They returned but played fewer minutes than their averages as Boston (41-39) set a season high for points in a 120-88 win over Orlando on Saturday.

The Celtics, who have lost 10 of 15, are guaranteed the seventh seed and will face New York in the first round of the playoffs after finishing the regular season Wednesday at Toronto.

''It's a fine line between rest and health,'' Pierce said. "Right now we're as healthy as we're gonna be for the rest of the season. "If we play the next couple of games or if we didn't, the most important thing is that we're ready for the playoffs.''

The Celtics have held the Pacers to an average of 78.8 points while winning the last four meetings, including an 83-81 victory March 6 as Jeff Green scored with 0.5 seconds remaining.

Green scored 17 points Saturday and is averaging 20.2 over his last nine games.

''He's going to be huge for us as that third scorer," Pierce said. "Everybody already knows what me and Kevin bring. He's going to have to be that guy now."

Rivers, who also rested Jason Terry on Saturday, hasn't said who will be in uniform versus Indiana.

"The key for us is to get through these two games, have some great practices and get ready for the playoffs," Rivers said. "That's what you play the whole season for.''

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