Saturday, December 28, 2013 at 7:00 PM ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Game Preview: Pacers (23-5) vs Nets (10-19)

Scott Agness | Updated: 12:45 p.m., December 28, 2013

Matchup

Traditionally, the NBA’s best teams play on Christmas Day. That’s not the case this year as the Pacers have the best record in the Eastern Conference (23-5), but they have the day off. Some players are irritated by the lack of the respect, while others appreciate having family time.

The Pacers won’t put on their game uniforms again until Saturday, when the Brooklyn Nets make their first appearance of the year at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The injury-depleted Nets don’t have it so easy, and played both on Christmas and Friday night against Milwaukee. Five days after the Pacers’ 17-point rout in Brooklyn, they’ll do it all again in Indy.

Brooklyn had all the hype entering the season, plus a $180 million payroll, but the Nets have been nothing but a disappointment. First-year head coach Jason Kidd is having a tough time managing his aging team, which hasn’t handled adversity well. After their loss to the Pacers on Monday, Kidd said he thinks his team is getting comfortable with losing. That’s never a good sign.

Nets All-Star center Brook Lopez broke his right foot on Dec. 20 in a loss to Philadelphia. That slides veteran Kevin Garnett, who has scored in double figures just four times all year, to the center slot. That gives Roy Hibbert, who has averaged 11.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game in two their two previous meetings, a clear advantage. He just has to stay out of foul trouble.

The Nets team is composed of six players who have a combined 36 All-Star selections, but this experiment hasn’t worked out. They are outside the playoff picture and fourth in a weak Atlantic Division.

For the Pacers, after back-to-back losses last week, they cleaned things up — particularly on the defensive end. Under Frank Vogel’s direction, they have the best defense in the league in terms of both points allowed (89) and field goal percentage (41.2). Over the last three games, all three opponents were held to 86 points or less and 38 percent shooting. In the meantime, the Pacers topped 100 points in each game (and have done so in one-third of their games played this season).

The Pacers must take advantage of a favorable schedule over the next few weeks. Nine of their next 10 games are against opponents that are under .500, with Atlanta being the lone exception.

The team seems to be back in a groove. Lance Stephenson is coming off a career-high 26 points in his hometown and David West has shot 57 percent from the field and 81 percent at the line over the last seven games. They appreciated being at home with loved ones over Christmas, but they are no doubt ready and rested when these two teams meet for the third time Saturday night.

Probable Starters

George Hill

George Hill

Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson

Paul George

Paul George

David West

David West

Roy Hibbert

Roy Hibbert

Deron Williams

Deron Williams

joe johnson

Joe Johnson

Shaun Livingston

Shaun Livingston

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett

Injury Update

Pacers: None
Nets: Andray Blatche (out, personal reasons), Andrei Kirilenko (out, back spasms), Brook Lopez (out for the season, fractured right foot)

Quotable

“It’s a little bit of a trap situation, where anytime you beat a team in their building and the next game is against that team in your building, then the natural human instinct is to say, ‘Well, it’s going to be easier because we beat them there.’ It very rarely ends up that way.” – Frank Vogel

“Our team’s mental focus is really at a high level. When we follow the plan and understand what we have to do to shut down certain teams. These guys go out and they do it – and they do it with a great deal of passion, and it’s fun.” – Frank Vogel

“We expect to come in and play with high energy. That’s one thing watching their games, specifically against Chicago and then the game against us, they just lacked the energy. I think coming in here … after a big holiday, I know teams are going to come in and play with some high energy.” – Paul George

“We came in their building and played incredible so I know for sure they watched film and definitely will get at us.” – Lance Stephenson

“It’s kind of both. We just have to go out there and do the same things that we’ve been done: playing hard, trying to get loose balls, keep them off of the offensive boards and play defense.” – C.J. Watson on whether playing the Nets so quickly is a pro or a con

Noteworthy

  • The Pacers have won the last two meetings.
  • Paul George needs two 3-pointers (377) to move into seventh place in franchise history for most 3-pointers made, surpassing Austin Croshere.
  • C.J. Watson played in Brooklyn last season and assistant coach Popeye Jones was on staff with the Nets from 2010-13. He’s still close with Joe Johnson and Andray Blatche.
  • Nets GM Billy King was an assistant coach for the Pacers under Larry Brown from 1993-1997.

Last Meeting

Dec. 23: Indiana used a 26-8 surge in the third quarter to pull away from the Brooklyn Nets in a 103-86 win. After recording his third triple-double the night before, Lance Stephenson upped his career-high to 26 points, with 10 coming in the final stanza. The Pacers held their third straight opponent to 38 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers.

Paul George finished with 26 points, six rebounds and five assists. Playing in his first back-to-back of the season, Danny Granger struggled and was scoreless (0-for-7 shooting). Joe Johnson led the Nets with 17 points and Kevin Garnett had 12. The Pacers led by as many as 24 and contained the Nets to just 6-of-26 (23 percent) from 3-point range. Paul Pierce received a flagrant-2 and was ejected in the third period after he clotheslined George Hill on a fast break layup.

Broadcast Information | Find Local Listings »

TV: FOX Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Brooke Olzendam (sideline reporter/host)
Radio: FM 107.5 The Fan, Pacers Radio Network - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Slick Leonard (color), Kevin Lee (sideline reporter/host)

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