Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Mavericks
Friday, Feb. 3, 2012 at Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (15-6) vs. Mavericks (14-9)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: This marks the end of a circle-the-calendar stretch of schedule for the Pacers -- 15 of their first 22 games on the road, with three road trips of at least three games. Heading into the season, it looked like the best that could be hoped for was survival. Indeed, the Pacers have thrived. With a 15-6 record heading into Dallas, they're trying (for the third time) to extend a winning streak to four games, have won five of their last six on the road and are very much in the thick of the race for homecourt advantage in the East. They've done it primarily with stout defense (91.2 points, .418 shooting allowed) but the offense is coming around with three consecutive games of at least 100 points after doing so just once in the first 18.
That includes a season-high 109 in a 10-point win at Minnesota Wednesday in which Danny Granger posted a season high of 36 points and a career high of 29 points in the second half. It was Granger's fifth straight game of at least 20 points, certifying once and for all that his early slump is gone. Roy Hibbert also has been coming on strong, racking up 33 points, 23 rebounds and seven blocks while shooting 13 of 22 in the last two games. The Pacers have lost seven in a row in Dallas but this has been a streak-busting season for Indiana -- already having snapped road skids of nine in Chicago, seven in Boston and six in Orlando this season.
SCOUTING THE MAVERICKS: After a bumpy start to the season, opening with three losses and five in their first eight, the Mavs have gathered themselves nicely and are right back in the hunt in the West with wins in three of four and 11 of 15. They're coming off a 95-86 loss to Oklahoma City Wednesday that snapped a three-game win streak. The defending champs retooled quite in the offseason, losing Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Caron Butler but added Lamar Odom and Delonte West to the veteran core of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion.
The oldest roster in the league (eight players born in the 1970s) has been challenged by the compressed nature of the 66-game schedule. Nowitzki sat out four games to rest a sore knee and allow extra conditioning work. In three games since returning he has struggled to find his rhythm, averaging 9.3 points on 11 of 39 shooting (.282), including 0 of 11 from the 3-point line. Kidd is expected to miss his fourth straight game with a strained calf muscle, and center Brendan Haywood has been battling back issues.
KEY MATCHUP: With two of the top reserves out with injuries (George Hill and Jeff Foster), the Pacers need to find someone to step forward to fill the void. The bench totaled just 16 points in Minnesota. Tyler Hansbrough has been in a lengthy slump, averaging just 6.3 points on .328 shooting in the last 10 games. Lou Amundson has filled in nicely for Foster, totaling 37 minutes, 20 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and 9 of 12 shooting in the last three games. Dallas' bench leads the league at 45.4 points per game, and Terry has been the team's leading scorer eight times.
QUOTE MARKS: "That's three in a row for us now, two road wins, and that's a lot of momentum. I think we're ready for Dallas. We should be ready." - Granger
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, George Hill (chip fracture, left ankle) and Jeff Foster (lower back) are out. For the Mavericks, Brendan Haywood (lower back tightness) is probable, while Jason Kidd (strained right calf) is out.
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 8:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brooke Olzendam hosting the pre-game show at 8. 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 Austin Croshere, 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.
NEXT HOME GAME: The Pacers host Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 7:00 p.m. Click here to purchase tickets. Saturday is also a Lucas Oil Family Night in which you receive a t-shirt and vouchers for a hot dog, chips and Pepsi product with select ticket purchases.