Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers vs. Bobcats

Jan. 7, 2012 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (5-2) vs. Bobcats (2-5)

By Conrad Brunner

SCOUTING THE PACERS: Coming off a split of a four-game road trip, the Pacers complete their second back-to-back of the young season tonight against a Charlotte team they've beaten six straight times, five straight at home. They're coming off a solid defensive performance in an 87-74 victory in Boston Friday night, holding the Celtics to .394 shooting overall, and Boston tied a franchise record-low with 25 points in the first half. The offense remains very much a work in progress, as the Pacers have shot better than 40 percent just twice (scraping by at .405 last night), but they have been strong inside. They're 5-0 when winning the rebounding battle, 4-0 when outscoring opponents in the paint and lead the NBA with an average of 18.1 second-chance points. Roy Hibbert is quietly having a strong start with five double-doubles (third in the league) and averages of 12.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and .527 shooting. The bench has been a major factor since George Hill found his groove (12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds in the last five), joining Tyler Hansbrough (12.6 points, 7.3 rebounds) as second-unit standouts.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS: Charlotte's record might well be deceiving because the Bobcats have played a rigorous early schedule. Four of their losses have come to Miami (twice), Orlando and Atlanta and they've beaten the Knicks on the road. They're coming off a 102-96 overtime loss at home to the Hawks Friday night in which D.J. Augustin scored 21 points with 12 assists and backup point guard Kemba Walker racked up 19. The Pacers should be prepared to face a zone defense, as the Bobcats employed that strategy to fuel a fourth-quarter rally last night that forced overtime. They have a small front line in Boris Diaw and former Indiana University standout D.J. White (11.3 points, 6.4 rebounds) and may have suffered a blow when Tyrus Thomas left last night's game after falling out of bounds into photographers. Thomas missed the first six games with a sprained ankle.

KEY MATCHUP: Danny Granger traditionally starts slowly but this has been a bit extreme. He's shooting .304 from the field, last in the NBA, and averaged 11.8 points on .252 shooting on the four-game road trip. The Bobcats' defense might be just the remedy. Granger averaged 27.3 points as the Pacers swept Charlotte last season and historically has shot well (career .463) against them. And this is not one of Charlotte's better defensive units, allowing 106.7 points (last in the NBA) and .477 shooting (third-highest).

QUOTE MARKS: "That's one big game for us. Just because we won this game, we've got to carry it over. We can't relax on a team like Charlotte. We've got to go home and get ready to play." - Collison on tonight's game

INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, G Lance Stephenson (sprained left ankle) is day-to-day. For the Bobcats, F Tyrus Thomas (left ankle sprain) is day-to-day, while F Corey Maggette (left hamstring strain), F Eduardo Najera (torn cartilage, left knee) and Reggie Williams (torn meniscus, left knee) are out.

TICKETS: Buy now

BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Austin Croshere calling the game with Brooke Olzendam hosting the pre-game show at 7. The radio broadcast is anchored by the flagship of the Pacers' network, WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and longtime partner Bobby "Slick" Leonard, with Kevin Lee reporting.