Pregame: Pacers vs. Detroit 122611

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Dec. 26, 2011 vs. Detroit
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers vs. Pistons

By Conrad Brunner

SCOUTING THE PACERS: Though they emerged from the truncated preseason without a victory, the Pacers benefited enormously from their two games with Chicago because the Bulls exposed the areas that will prove central to their season: offensive balance and defensive cohesion. The Pacers averaged just 13.5 assists and shot 35.3 percent in the two games, numbers that are not unrelated. The Bulls, on the other hand, shot 50 percent and averaged 23.5 assists. Coach Frank Vogel isn't tipping his hand about the starting power forward spot. Tyler Hansbrough averaged 21.5 points and 12.0 rebounds against the Bulls but will eventually give way to veteran David West, who is rebuilding his conditioning after an offseason of rehab from knee surgery. Another spot to keep an eye on his shooting guard, where second-year pro Paul George must continue to grow into a prominent role by being more assertive as a scorer and aggressive as a defender. The Pacers will go 10 deep and their two units have distinct personalities. The first unit has offensive potency while the second unit promises defensive energy.

SCOUTING THE PISTONS: The last time Lawrence Frank took over as head coach, he guided the Nets to 13 straight victories right out of the box and helped establish that team as an annual playoff contender. He is tasked with the same challenge in Detroit. After winning 30 games last season and firing Coach John Kuester, the Pistons are not expected to contend but they are hardly bereft of talent. They are an unusually tall team, with 6-11 Austin Daye at shooting guard and 6-9 Tayshaun Prince at small forward, and are excited about the prospects of first-round pick Brandon Knight at point guard. Though Rip Hamilton is gone (to Chicago), Prince, Rodney Stuckey and Ben Wallace remain as the roster makes a transition from old to young.

KEY MATCHUP: The battle of Hoyas will be one to watch. Detroit's Greg Monroe posted solid overall numbers as a rookie (9.4 points, 7.5 rebounds) but came on strong in the second half of the season to convince the Pistons they've found their big man of the future. Heading into his fourth season, the Pacers' Roy Hibbert has established himself as a capable post threat and solid shot-blocker but appears poised to add new levels to his game.

QUOTE MARKS: "They're going to play scrappy. They've got a lot of length, with (Austin) Daye and (Jonas) Jerebko and (Tayshaun) Prince on the wings. What we haven't seen in the preseason is them playing with a guy like Charlie Villanueva who spreads the court at the power forward position. So we'll have to be ready for that. (Rodney) Stuckey and (Will) Bynum are murder off the bounce and Ben Gordon can fill it up and go for 30 on any given night. So they're going to be a formidable opponent, for sure." -- Pacers Coach Frank Vogel.

INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, F Jeff Pendergraph (sprained right knee) is day-to-day. For the Pistons, no injuries reported.

TICKETS: Buy now

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

INTERACT: You can chat live with fans around the country in our live game blog which begins at tipoff.


DANNY GRANGER, SMALL FORWARD
20.5 PPG | 5.4 RPG | 2.6 APg
An overall consistent player. Played more games than he had the previous two seasons, but the former All-Star and Indiana's go-to player saw his scoring take a dip.
DARREN COLLISON, POINT GUARD
13.2 PPG | 5.1 APG | 2.8 RPg
Collison is a quick guard who can penetrate the lane, create for his teammates and is a solid defender. Started all 79 games he played during the 2010-11 season.
PAUL GEORGE, SHOOTING GUARD
7.8 PPG | 3.7 RPG | 1.1 APg
The second-year George is a lengthy wing player who can shoot but at times appears passive on the floor. He's also an active defender who averaged a steal per game.
DAVID WEST, POWER FORWARD
18.9 PPG | 7.6 RPG | .508 FG%
Acquired as an offseason free agent pickup, West brings a formidable frontcourt presence on both ends of the floor. Pacers will use caution as West returns from an ACL injury.
ROY HIBBERT, CENTER
12.7 PPG | 7.5 RPG | 1.8 BPg
Hibbert is among the league leaders in blocks, but immobility forces him into foul trouble. Likes to work away from basket and has decent shooting touch for a player his size.