Countdown to Tipoff: Jazz at Pacers 120207
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (16-7) vs. Jazz (13-10)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: Having established themselves as one of the best road teams in the NBA, the Pacers need to rebuild their homecourt edge. They've dropped two of the last three at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, both to Orlando, including an 85-81 loss Saturday in which Indiana posted season lows in points and field goal percentage (.341). It was the team's fourth game in five nights and followed a grueling victory in Dallas Friday, so fatigue was a major factor. Until George Hill (chip fracture, left ankle) and Jeff Foster (sore lower back) return from injuries the bench will be relatively thin, which won't allow much opportunity for rest. Tyler Hansbrough's season-high 17-point outing against Orlando was an encouraging sign for the young forward who has been mired in a slump.
Paul George is coming off the best week of his career, averaging 19.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.75 steals and 1.5 blocked shots while shooting .563 overall and .519 from the 3-point line. He also raised his career-high twice, going for 24 Tuesday against the Nets and then 30 Friday in Dallas. George's surge could be a product of Danny Granger's re-emergence. Granger has averaged 22.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.57 steals in the last seven games. The Pacers close February with six of eight at home so there's no time like the present to get re-acclimated.
SCOUTING THE JAZZ: Eternally competitive, Utah has jumped off to a solid start largely because of a friendly schedule that was the inverse of Indiana's, with 15 of the first 22 games at home. The Jazz is entering a much tougher stretch that brings five of six and eight of 11 on the road, where the team dropped to 2-6 after a 99-88 loss in New York Monday. Gordon Hayward is experiencing the typical ups and downs of a second-year player but is having a solid season (9.5 points, 3.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds prior to Monday's game in New York). Former Pacers point guard Jamaal Tinsley is trying to rebuild his career in Utah. Though he plays sparingly behind Devin Harris and another former Indiana player, Earl Watson, Tinsley got a chance to start on Feb. 2 at Golden State and produced 13 assists with nine points.
Utah has proved a vexing opponent for the Pacers, sweeping the series by a total of 33 points last season while holding Indiana to an average of just 86.0 points. The Jazz has won six of the last seven, with the only Pacers win coming on the shoulders of Granger's 44-point game in 2010. Coach Tyrone Corbin's team is an impressive assemblage of young talent, particularly in the frontcourt with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors.
KEY MATCHUP: The Pacers have struggled mightily with wide-bodies in the post and Utah has two of the best in Jefferson and Millsap. Jefferson racked up 47 points and 19 rebounds against the Pacers last season, while Millsap had 39 points and 24 boards. Both players can score inside and out. With David West at power forward and Roy Hibbert bulked up at center, the Pacers should be better equipped to deal with Utah's post players but that theory certainly will be tested.
QUOTE MARKS: "(The schedule) is going to turn in our favor and I think this is the point in the season where we can really separate ourselves." - Granger
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Jeff Foster (lower back) is day-to-day, while George Hill (chip fracture is out. For the Jazz, no injuries are reported.
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 Brooke Olzendam hosting the pre-game show at 6:30. The game will also be carried nationally by NBA TV. 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 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.