Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Cleveland
Wednesday, Feb. 15 at Cleveland, 7:30 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (17-11) vs Cavaliers (10-16)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: Want some good news? Tonight begins the softest stretch of the schedule, with seven consecutive games against teams with losing records. In fact, the combined record of the Pacers' opponents in that stretch is 45-147 (.234). This could be just what the doctor ordered for the ailing Pacers, who dropped their fourth in a row and fifth in six games Tuesday to Miami in a 105-90 decision that wasn't nearly that close. The Heat racked up 68 points and a 29-point lead in the first half and led by as many as 35 in the second as the Pacers continued their recent slump. Of course, the doctor also has some bad news, as Danny Granger sprained his left ankle in the first quarter against Miami and is listed as day-to-day, though Coach Frank Vogel said after the game Tuesday he did not expect his leading scorer to play tonight. If that is the case, Dahntay Jones is likely to step into the lineup at shooting guard, shifting Paul George to small forward.
In the streak, the defense has yielded 103.3 points and .480 shooting, and the last two opponents have both topped 100 points -- something the defense allowed just twice in the first 26 games. The offense also has been erratic, particularly from long range as the Pacers have shot .282 from the 3-point line in the last six. David West is surging, averaging 18.3 points and 7.0 rebounds and shooting .617 from the field in the last four, and A.J. Price has found his stroke off the bench, racking up 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting in the last two
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SCOUTING THE CAVALIERS: This is not a team to be taken lightly. The Cavs have taken a big step toward respectability this season under Coach Byron Scott and are in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. They've been without rookie sensation Kyrie Irving the last three games due to a concussion but he's expect back in the lineup tonight. Irving is the leading scorer among rookies (18.0) and second in assists (5.1) and is shooting .492 overall and .413 from the 3-point line. Center Anderson Varejao (10.8 points, 11.5 rebounds) sustained a fractured wrist Friday against Milwaukee and will not play. He'll be replaced by Semih Erden in the lineup.
Antawn Jamison has been on a roll, averaging 23.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, shooting .482 in the last six, while Ramon Sessions has averaged 9.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds in the last seven. The Cavs are playing the fourth of a nine-game homestand, the longest in franchise history and tied for the third-longest ever. The Pacers needed overtime to win 98-91 on Dec. 30 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse as Granger scored 22 and Roy Hibbert had 17 points and 13 rebounds. Irving had 20 points, five rebounds and four assists and Anderson Varejao had 14 points and 13 boards.
KEY MATCHUP: Cleveland has been at its best in the fourth quarter, averaging 24.7 points, the second-most in the NBA. The Pacers, on the other hand, average just 22.1 points in the final period which ranks 26th.
QUOTE MARKS: "We need a better effort (tonight) and get some shots to drop and get a win. Not a must win, but a much needed win." - Paul George
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Danny Granger (sprained left ankle) is day-to-day; Jeff Foster (lower back) and George Hill (chip fracture, left ankle) are out. For the Cavs, Kyrie Irving (concussion), Anthony Parker (low back strain) and Anderson Varejao (non-displaced fracture of the right wrist) are day-to-day.
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 7:30. The radio broadcast is on 1070 The Fan, featuring Mark Boyle in his 24th season of play-by-play, 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 the New Jersey Nets on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 7:00 p.m. Click here to purchase tickets.
In their first meeting of the season, the Pacers defeated the Cavs 98-91 in overtime (12/30/2011).