Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Kings 120118
Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 at Sacramento, 10 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (9-3) vs. Kings (4-10)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: The ability to win low-scoring, poor-shooting games has been an unexpected trait of the early season. The Pacers are 4-2 when they shoot below 40 percent, no mean feat for a team that had lost its previous 31 such games entering this season. They already have won eight games when scoring fewer than 100 points, something they accomplished just seven times all of last season. Though Coach Frank Vogel is pleased with the defensive grit, he has spent much of the past two weeks encouraging his team to increase its offensive tempo. The Pacers scored a season-high 23 fast-break points in a 97-83 victory over Boston Saturday. With a three-game Western Conference trip launching a stretch that brings eight of 10 on the road, the Pacers need to find ways to make things a little easier on themselves. They're 20th in scoring (93.2), 26th in assists (17.7) and 27th in field goal percentage (.413). The defense, on the other hand, has been stout, yielding 88.9 points (third) and .413 shooting (fifth) while ranking fifth in blocked shots (5.67) and sixth in steals (9.58). They will play the next two weeks without veteran backup center Jeff Foster, out due to a procedure on his sore back.
SCOUTING THE KINGS: The NBA's youngest team has been predictably unpredictable and rides a three-game losing streak in which the offense has generated just 78.3 points into Wednesday night's game. Coach Paul Westphal was fired more for his feud with talented but tempestuous center DeMarcus Cousins than the 2-5 start. Westphal was replaced by former I.U. legend Keith Smart, who has since gone 2-5, including a 99-86 loss to Minnesota on Monday. The schedule has done this team no favors. The Kings are coming off a five-game trip and after this game head back out for three more. Sacramento is in the midst of a stretch in which 18 of 24 are on the road, so small wonder the team is struggling. The future of the franchise also has been a distraction, as Sacramento voters have until March 1 to approve a funding plan for a new arena or risk losing the Kings to another city, with Anaheim eagerly waiting in the wings. Rookie Jimmer Fredette has not exactly taken the NBA by storm, averaging 7.6 points, shooting .345 overall and just .283 from the 3-point line.
KEY MATCHUP: Cousins showed the Pacers how dominant he can be when last the teams met, scoring 18 points and pulling 14 rebounds as the Kings thumped Indiana 110-93 on March 25 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Roy Hibbert has been much more of a force this season and has averaged 14.9 points and 9.9 rebounds in the last seven games, so the men in the middle will be central to the outcome.
QUOTE MARKS: "We're one game away from being in sixth place in the East. We all feel good that we're second or whatever, but there's not a lot of separation between second and sixth. Our mindset is we're going to be mover .500 on the road this year and we're 4-3 right now and we can't take any steps back." -- Vogel
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Jeff Foster (back) is out and Jeff Pendergraph (concussion) is doubtful. For the Kings, Chuck Hayes (dislocated left shoulder) is out.
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 10 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brooke Olzendam hosting the pre-game show at 9:30. The radio broadcast is anchored by the flagship of the Pacers' network, WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle in his 24th season of play-by-play, and Kevin Lee reporting.
INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.