Friday, March 7, 2014 at 9:30 PM ET at Toyota Center

Game Preview: Pacers at Rockets

Scott Agness | March 5, 2014

Matchup

The Houston Rockets (42-19) seek to avenge an embarrassing early-season loss to the Pacers when they meet on Friday in Houston. The Pacers (46-15) handed the Rockets a 33-point beat-down back in mid-December in Indianapolis.

“They are a well-seasoned team,” Rockets center Dwight Dwight Howard said after that game. “You can tell they’ve been together for a couple of years. … They kicked our (butts).”

Until recently, it seemed to be a two-team race for the top seed in the Western Conference between Oklahoma City and San Antonio, but the Rockets have rocketed up in the standings over the last few weeks, winning 12 of their last 14 games. Since Jan. 1, they are an NBA-best 20-6, and have moved into third in the West.

With the exception of facing the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, Houston is on perhaps the most difficult portion of their schedule. This stretch includes home games against Miami, Indiana, and Portland, then on the road in Oklahoma City, Chicago, and Miami.

The Rockets are third in the NBA in scoring (106.4 points per game), with guard James Harden the fifth leading-scorer at 24.4 per game. Paul George, however, kept Harden to 12 in their first meeting. They are ridiculously dangerous in the open court. Howard (19 points, 12.5 rebounds) is a mobile big man and his guards look to push it often. They’ve have averaged nearly 22 fastbreak points over the last dozen games, but with the emphasis to push the ball comes turnovers — over 17 a game.

As for Indiana, they have ran into a speed bump this week, losing to both Golden State and Charlotte. Their effectiveness on the defensive end has dropped, and each of their previous nine opponents have scored at least 91 points on them. On Wednesday they lost to the Bobcats by 22, but it was much worse most of the game as they had their worst overall performance of the season.

George had just two points and he failed to make a shot, going 0-for-9. Roy Hibbert was beat up in the post by Al Jefferson, outscored 34 to four. Indiana turned the ball over 18 times, had little production in the paint and didn’t slow the Bobcats in transition.

So, the Pacers have lost consecutive games for the second time this season. They ended the last one in a triumphant 33-point victory over the Rockets, who’ve won thee straight, and are just a one and half games out of second place in the Western Conference.

Injuries, while not an excuse, are certainly a concern. George’s tailbone obviously bothered him last game, C.J. Watson was kept out due to a sprained right elbow, and George Hill played through a bruised left shoulder. There are other bumps and bruises, but they’re to be expected this late into a season.

Probable Starters

George Hill

George Hill

Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson

Paul George

Paul George

David West

David West

Roy Hibbert

Roy Hibbert

Pat Beverley

Pat Beverley

James Harden

James Harden

Chandler Parsons

Chandler Parsons

Terrence Jones

Terrence Jones

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard

Injury Update

Pacers: C.J. Watson (out, sprained right elbow)
Rockets: Dwight Howard (day-to-day, sore lower back), Jeremy Lin (day-to-day, sore lower back), Greg Smith (out, right knee procedure)

Noteworthy

  • The Pacers have won the last four meetings with the Rockets, including two straight at the Toyota Center.
  • Houston hasn’t lost at home this season to an Eastern Conference team (13-0, with only games against the Pacers and the 76ers remaining).
  • Roy Hibbert needs three rebounds to hit 3,000 over his six-year career.

Last Meeting

December 20: After losing two straight games for the only time this season, the Pacers had their way at home with the Rockets, winning 114-81. The game also marked the return of Danny Granger, who’d missed the first 25 games of the season with a calf injury. Up by double digits at halftime, the Pacers scored 31 points in the third for a 22-point lead, and thus had the game in hand early.

Paul George led all scorers with 24 points along with nine rebounds. Lance Stephenson had 16 and Luis Scola added 13 points off the bench. Dwight Howard finished with 19 & 12 for his 17th double-double of the year and Chandler Parsons had 14 for Houston.

Broadcast Information | Find Local Listings »

TV: FOX Sports Indiana – Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Brooke Olzendam (sideline reporter/host)
ESPN - Dave Pasch (play-by-play), Jeff Van Gundy (analyst)
Radio: FM 107.5/AM 1070 The Fan, Pacers Radio Network – Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Michael Grady (studio host)

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