Countdown to Tipoff: Nets at Pacers 120131
Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (13-6) vs. Nets (7-14)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: They can't unpack their bags just yet, but soon. Coming off two three-game road trips in the past two weeks, the Pacers make a rare home appearance against a Nets team they have beaten eight straight times, including a 108-94 rout in New Jersey on Jan. 2. After this game they head back for two more on the road (at Minnesota Wednesday and Dallas Friday) before returning for their first consecutive home games. Indiana has thrived despite its grueling schedule, going 8-5 on the road -- tied with the Thunder and Bulls for most road wins in the league -- while taking five of six at home. Their last appearance in Indianapolis, however, was a bit of a clunker, a 102-83 loss to Orlando in which the Pacers shot 39 percent and had just eight assists.
They're showing signs of warming up offensively, coming off their second 100-point game of the season in a 106-85 payback victory in Orlando. Danny Granger has shaken his early troubles with three straight 20-point games, shooting 50 percent in the process. David West is gradually becoming more assertive, averaging 14.7 points in the last three, and George Hill emerged from a brief slump with 16 points in Orlando as the bench racked up a 42-16 scoring advantage.
This will be the debut game for the Pacers' Hardwood Classics uniforms. They will be wearing the blue road uniforms from the 1971-74 seasons for eight games. Beginning with Tuesday's game, fans will be able to purchase select current Pacers players jerseys in the retro style at Home Court Gift Shop at the Fieldhouse or online at PacersGear.com.
SCOUTING THE NETS: A season that began with visions of Dwight Howard has drifted out of focus. Not only have the Nets lost their starting center, Brook Lopez, to a broken foot but backup Mehmet Okur also is out with back spasms. That leaves them with a pair of journeymen, Shelden Williams and Johan Petro, to man the middle. Nevertheless, they've been playing better of late, beating the Cavs and 76ers before falling to the Raptors 94-73 on Sunday.
Kris Humphries missed the first matchup with the Pacers and he could be a difference-maker as one of 10 NBA players averaging a double-double (12.8 points, 10.6 rebounds). Marshon Brooks, who hit the Pacers for 21, is the second-leading rookie scorer in the league (14.8), and the Nets are tied for the league lead with 190 made 3-pointers, so they can get rolling from the arc. They were 7-of-28 against the Pacers and shot 37 percent overall.
KEY MATCHUP: As Deron Williams goes, so go the Nets. In their seven victories he has averaged 26.6 points, 10.4 assists, 5.4 rebounds and shot .463 overall and .436 from the 3-point line. In losses he has averaged 15.8 points, 7.5 assists, 2.7 rebounds and shot .352 overall and .266 from the arc. With his combination of size and speed he's a tough cover but Darren Collison must find a way to crowd Williams at the 3-point line while limiting his driving lanes.
QUOTE MARKS: "We have a scary team. We want to be very intimidating and solid at home. We want to be at least a .500 team on the road. We know every game in this short season is big. We want to take steps and be a top team in the East. Every night we have to play like it is our last." - Hill
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Jeff Foster (lower back procedure) is day to day. For the Nets, Brook Lopez (broken foot), Damion James (sore foot) and Mehmet Okur (back spasms) 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 6:30. 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 along with partner Bobby "Slick" Leonard, with Kevin Lee hosting the pre-game and halftime shows.
INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.