Wednesday, March 14 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 7 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (24-16) vs. Sixers (25-17)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: Having put an end to one losing streak, the Pacers get a chance to wipe away another tonight against Philadelphia. Coming off a solid defensive performance in a 92-75 rout of Portland Tuesday that snapped a four-game skid, the Pacers will try to beat a team with a winning record for the first time in nine games. Their last victory over an above-.500 foe came Feb. 7 against Utah. Additional weight comes from the fact this currently stands as the Pacers' first-round playoff matchup. The teams are in a virtual tie with the Pacers having a slightly higher winning percentage, but Philadelphia can hold no lower than the fourth seed because it is a division leader.
Lou Amundson had a career-high 21 points against the Blazers, reinforcing his solid play of late. He has averaged 6.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 14.3 minutes off the bench in the last eight games, though he has struggled (.458) from the free-throw line. The Pacers welcomed back George Hill, who had 11 points and three assists and sparked a second-quarter surge in his first game after missing two with a sprained left shoulder. They're 18-7 when Hill plays and 6-9 in games he's missed. Paul George also continued to play well, recoridng his ninth consecutive double-figures scoring game. He's averaging 14.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.89 steals and 2.4 assists in those nine.
SCOUTING THE SIXERS: Like the Pacers, the Sixers are trying to bounce back from a rough patch in February. After a 20-9 start they dropped eight of 10 but have recovered to win their last three thanks largely to an offensive surge. Philadelphia has scored at least 100 points in the last three games, the firs ttime they've put together that kind of streak this season. It coincides with the promotion of Evan Turner to the starting lineup. Turner has averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds in the win streak, including 24 and 15 as the Sixers won their third in a row 106-94 over New York Sunday.
If they continue to score like that, watch out. Philly's defense leads the league in points (87.3) and field goal percentage (.414) and is third in 3-point percentage (.315). Offensively, they commit the fewest turnovers in the league (10.7) and have six players scoring in double figures. They expect to regain the services of one of those tonight, as center Spencer Hawes could return after missing the previous 17 games with an Achilles strain. If he plays, his minutes will be limited.
KEY MATCHUP: It's always about the bench when you play the Sixers. They have two top scorers (Lou Williams at 16.1 and Thaddeus Young at 13.4) in reserve and lead the league with an average of 43.5 bench points per game. Indiana's success has hinged largely on its depth, as well. The Pacers got 44 bench points against Portland and are 7-1 when the second unit provides at least 40. The problem has been consistency; Indiana ranks 20th in second-unit scoring at 29.1. In Philadelphia's 96-86 victory on Jan. 9, the Sixers held a 41-19 edge off the bench but Hill did not play.
QUOTE MARKS: "We're excited. There's a lot of talk about we can't beat the good teams. Well, we'll find out (Wednesday) night." - Pacers Coach Frank Vogel
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, George Hill (sprained left shoulder) is probable, while Jeff Foster (back) is out. For the Sixers, Spencer Hawes (left Achilles strain) is day-to-day.
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast nationally on ESPN at 7 p.m. The radio broadcast will air on WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Bob "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.