Chris Forsberg

Are Celtics and Pacers on a collision course after Siakam trade?

Boston and Indy have split their season series to date.

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By adding two-time All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam, the Indiana Pacers have furthered cemented their position as a threat in the Eastern Conference and added a layer of intrigue behind the familiar beasts of the East.

Before Wednesday’s swap that delivered Siakam from the Toronto Raptors, the Pacers were a frisky team that seemed destined to go as far as All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton could carry them. In the aftermath, Indiana morphs into the sort of team that no team at the top of the conference would prefer to see in the early rounds of the postseason.

If more established teams like the Celtics, Bucks, and 76ers occupy the top tier in the East — and, given Boston’s success, we can quibble if the Celtics are in a tier of their own at the moment — then Indiana is more firmly entrenched now in the second group with teams like Miami, New York and Cleveland.

The Pacers paid a hefty price by sending out three first-round picks and Boston native Bruce Brown. The Raptors have intriguing new pieces, including the under-the-radar addition of Kira Lewis Jr. from New Orleans as part of their swaps, to help expedite putting a contender around Scottie Barnes.

It was a worthwhile swing for Indiana, which will hope to further unlock Siakam, particularly with Haliburton -- who's currently sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered against Boston on Jan. 8 but is expected to return soon -- at the helm of a high-powered offense that could benefit from additional size.

The Pacers now seem better positioned to make a push for the No. 4 or 5 seed in the East, which would put them on a collision course with a top seed like Boston in Round 2 of the postseason.

The Celtics and Pacers have already played a handful of playoff-like battles this season, including an In-Season Tournament quarterfinal in Indy in which the Pacers showcased their potential to push quality teams. Indiana has also dominated recent head-to-head matchups with the Bucks.

The wild card in all this is Siakam’s long-term future. The 29-year-old is a free agent after the season but such a splurge would suggest the Pacers are confident in retaining him long term.

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