2013 NBA schedule: Slumping Celtics need win badly vs. Pacers, Hawks

Jared Wickerham

The Boston Celtics have lost four straight by nearly 20 points per game, and now have to play two teams with better records on back-to-back nights as they face the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks.

The Boston Celtics will try to bounce out of a rough skid Friday and Saturday nights, but it won't be easy, as the team takes on a pair of teams that are well over .500.

It's not just that Boston's been losing, they've been losing badly: the C's have lost four straight, and even including a reasonable 10-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night, their average margin of defeat in the stretch has been 19.7 points. They couldn't get stops, allowing the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings to shoot better than 50 percent from the field and from beyond the arc, and couldn't score, averaging just 80 points per game in the two losses to Memphis and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Sure, three of the games were on the West Coast, and Rajon Rondo was out for the Golden State game with a bruised thigh and hip, but neither of those facts is a suitable excuse for just how poorly the team played. They're now three games below .500 at 14-17. On the plus side, they now have talented guard Avery Bradley back, meaning their true starting five is intact for the first time all year.

Next up are the Central Division-leading Indiana Pacers, who have won nine of their last 11, and the Atlanta Hawks, who have an even better record than Indiana. Indiana is one of the worst offensive units in the league, but George Hill, Paul George, and Roy Hibbert provide the length in the team with the top defensive efficiency in the league. Atlanta has five guys that average double-digits, but possibly most worrisome for Boston is that three Hawks average more boards per game than Boston's top rebounder.

Here's how to catch the games:

Friday, Jan. 4

Indiana Pacers (19-13) vs. Boston Celtics (14-17)

8 p.m., Comcast SportsNet New England

Sat, Jan. 5

Boston Celtics (14-17) vs. Atlanta Hawks (20-10)

7 p.m., Comcast SportsNet New England

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