Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (29-20) vs. Wizards (11-38)
Thursday, March 29 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 7 p.m.
SCOUTING THE PACERS: Asked if he was surprised by his team's performance in New Jersey Wednesday, Frank Vogel had a one-word answer that said a lot: "Yes." He chose not to elaborate, because there really was no need. Coming off a 15-point home rout of Miami Monday, the Pacers felt pretty good about themselves and deservedly so. After being the victims of a 16-point road rout in New Jersey Wednesday, the feelings were quite the opposite and deservedly so. David West called it "embarrassing" and said there was "no excuse" for it. Danny Granger said the team was "sleepwalking" through the game. Indiana trailed by two points entering the fourth quarter and promptly unraveled against a Nets team that finished the game with eight healthy players and only one center.
Granger fouled out for the first time in more than a year. Roy Hibbert took just seven shots and scored five points. George Hill was scoreless for the second game in a row. Only Paul George brought any life at all with 22 points, four assists and four rebounds, but even the team's top defender couldn't do anything about the Nets' Deron Williams, who scored 30 points, 13 in the fourth quarter. George has totaled 38 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in the last two games.
SCOUTING THE WIZARDS: What happened Wednesday very nearly happened last Thursday when these teams met in Washington. The Wizards led 47-25 in the second quarter, 55-36 in the third and 68-57 in the fourth before the Pacers rallied, scoring the final eight points of the game in the final 2½ minutes to steal a victory. Unfortunately for the Wizards, it marked the start of a trend; in each of their next two home games they blew double-digit leads to lose. The most recent example was a 79-77 loss to Detroit in which they led 67-55 in the fourth but were outscored 24-10 the rest of the way.
The Wizards are 9-23 under Indianapolis native and former Indiana University and Pacers player Randy Wittman, who took over after Flip Saunders got the team off to a 2-15 start. Midseason acquisition Nene has been solid, averaging 14.3 points and 8.8 rebounds when healthy enough to play; he has been bothered by back spasms.
KEY MATCHUP: Given their problems dealing with elite point guards lately, the Pacers might be advised to focus more than the usual attention on John Wall. Phoenix's Steve Nash torched them for 17 assists and 12 points in a 113-111 loss Friday, and the Nets' Williams beat them almost single-handedly Wednesday. Wall isn't in their class but has the talent to get there, averaging 17.1 points and 7.9 assists. His flaws are 3-point shooting (3-of-28) and turnovers (3.9 per game).
QUOTE MARKS: "We've got to have a short-term memory and do a better job of being focused for next game. We have to approach these teams like they’re the Miami Heat or the Chicago Bulls and stop looking past the teams that are sub-500." - Paul George
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Tyler Hansbrough (broken nose and fractured facial bone) is probable. For the Wizards, Rashard Lewis (sore left knee) and Andray Blatche (conditioning) are out, while Nene (back spasms) and Trevor Booker (foot, knee) are questionable.
TICKETS: Buy now
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 6:30. 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.