Wednesday, March 28 at New Jersey, 7:30 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (29-19) vs. Nets (16-35)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: Remember the team that won all those games early in the season shooting less than 40 percent? They're gone. The Pacers suddenly are an offensive juggernaut. In the last three games, they've averaged 113.7 points and shot 49.6 percent overall and 58.5 percent (24 of 41) from the 3-point line. A number of factors are contributing to the surge, which includes six games of at least 100 points in the last eight.
The acquisition of Leandro Barbosa has added another major weapon, as Miami learned Monday when he scored 12 points in less than four minutes as the Pacers broke it open in the fourth quarter on the way to a 105-90 victory. Danny Granger also has surged since the trade, averaging 23.8 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 46.4 percent overall and 57.9 percent from the arc. Roy Hibbert has averaged 17 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.17 blocks while shooting 56.7 percent in the last six. For his part, Barbosa has averaged 16.4 minutes and 8.4 points as the second unit has averaged 38 points since the trade.
SCOUTING THE NETS: This might've been a big year in New Jersey, had all the grandiose plans to make a megadeal for Dwight Howard come to fruition. Instead, the Nets are headed to the lottery for the fifth straight year. It will be a first for Coach Avery Johnson, who never missed the playoffs in four seasons on the Dallas bench. The Nets have lost their last 10 meetings with the Pacers, including three this year by an average deficit of 13 points, and are trying to avoid third consecutive season series sweep.
Like the Pacers, the Nets made a move at the trade deadline, obtaining Gerald Wallace from Portland (for Shawne Williams, Mehmet Okur and a protected first-round pick). Unlike the Pacers, the team has not played well since the trade, losing five of six. Wallace has averaged 14.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in New Jersey but shot just 35.9 percent. Marshon Brooks was an early season sensation but appears to have hit the rookie wall, averaging just 8.8 points on 31 percent shooting in the last five, missing all 11 of his 3-point attempts in the process.
KEY MATCHUP: Deron Williams has averaged 28.3 points and 6.3 assists against the Pacers this season, and even that hasn't been enough to generate even one victory. The franchise point guard has been forced to do it all himself this season, a counter-intuitive approach for a creator. Darren Collison is coming off perhaps his finest all-around game with the Pacers, a 20-point, four-steal outing against Miami and needs to continue to use his speed and energy to harass Williams, who leads the league in turnovers at 4.0 per game.
QUOTE MARKS: "The shift of George Hill to point guard and bringing in Barbosa just brings us a lot of depth. We've got a good schedule towards the end of the season, a lot of home games, looking forward to making a serious run towards the end of the season and hopefully going into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league." - Pacers Coach Frank Vogel
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Tyler Hansbrough (broken nose and facial bone) is probable. For the Nets, Damion James (right foot surgery), Brook Lopez (right foot), Jordan Farmar (sore right groin), and Anthony Morrow (bruised right shoulder) are out.
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brook Olzendam hosting the pregame show starting at 7. The radio broadcast will air on WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle, 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.