Looking to strengthen their hold on the No. 2 seed in the East, the Indiana Pacers host the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night in a possible postseason preview. If the standings hold steady for the rest of the season, these two teams will face off in the first round this spring.
While the Pacers lack the star power of other contenders, particularly with former All-Star Danny Granger still recovering from a knee injury, they've emerged as one of the most intriguing teams in basketball. Since the end of January, Indiana has posted a 12-3 record, with double-digit wins over Miami, Chicago, New York, Atlanta and Golden State.
The Pacers may still lack the offensive firepower to challenge the likes of Miami, Oklahoma City or San Antonio in a seven-game series, but it's getting easier to imagine this squad riding defense to a possible upset.
While the Celtics have issues of their own to deal with, their recent play could move them up in the standings before season's end, as Indy Cornrows notes.
The last time these two teams played in early January, the Celtics were rocking a radically different look with Rajon Rondo still healthy, but the team has responded well to his absence. Three games below .500 with Rondo in the lineup, Boston has won 12 of 16 games since his injury.
The Celtics will need to beat one of the hottest teams in the NBA to sustain that success on Wednesday, though.
After losing back-to-back games in overtime to Toronto and Brooklyn last month, the Pacers have been on a roll with eight wins in nine tries. Though many players have been huge during the hot stretch, nobody has done more on the court than veteran big man David West.
Typically productive despite the lack of attention he receives, West has been particularly good in recent weeks. Over the past nine games, West has averaged 21.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 32 minutes per game, flashing the hot hand with 57 percent shooting from the field.
Wednesday's game begins at 7 p.m. ET.