Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Bobcats 120222


Wednesday, Feb. 22 at Charlotte, 7 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (20-12) vs. Bobcats (4-27)

By Conrad Brunner

SCOUTING THE PACERS: On the surface, the last game before the All-Star break looks like a walkover. The Pacers have won eight in a row against Charlotte and have dominated the Bobcats this season, winning two meetings by 57 points, including a 35-point blowout Sunday in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But circumstances are conspiring to make this a much bigger challenge than it might appear. For one, the Bobcats have had two days off to not only rest, but simmer after that rout. For another, the Pacers are coming off a high-stress 117-108 overtime victory over New Orleans Tuesday in which all five started played at least 38 minutes, so for a team playing its third game in four nights, fatigue could be a factor.

Reinforcement is on the way, as sixth man George Hill is expected to be available on a limited basis for the first time this month. The Pacers have gone 6-7 without Hill. The two All-Star Weekend representatives are rounding into form. Eastern Conference reserve center Roy Hibbert had a career high 30 points against the Hornets, adding 13 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season (and third in a row). In the last three games he has averaged 20.3 points, 12.7 rebounds and .639 shooting. Paul George scored 20 as he prepared for the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. George's 3-point stroke has deserted him (.250 in the last 10 games) but he has been doing everything else, racking up 18 rebounds, 11 assists and 7 steals in the team's three-game win streak.

SCOUTING THE BOBCATS: If payback is to be exacted, Charlotte will have to do so without leading scorer Gerald Henderson. It was hoped the shooting guard from Duke might return from a hamstring injury before the All-Star break but he could not practice Tuesday and will miss his eighth game in a row. The Bobcats have lost 17 of 18 and have been beaten by at least 30 points seven times. In Sunday's game, they fell behind 21-2 in the first quarter and never challenged, trailing by as many as 44 in the fourth quarter. The Bobcats shot 37 percent and their 73 points marked the lowest allowed by Indiana this season.

KEY MATCHUP: Hibbert and David West outscored the Bobcats' frontcourt starters, Bismack Biyombo and Boris Diaw, 32-0 on Sunday as the Pacers dominated inside. They outrebounded Charlotte 55-31 and held advantages of 52-30 in the paint and 19-2 on second-chance points.

QUOTE MARKS: "We will not talk about (the All-Star Game) until after (Wednesday) night. One more game and we have to concentrate on that. Then we can move on." - Roy Hibbert

INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Jeff Foster (lower back) day-to-day and George Hill (chip fracture, left ankle) are day-to-day. For the Bobcats, Gerald Henderson (hamstring) is out.

BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with the pregame show starting at 6:30. The radio broadcast will air on AM 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.