Countdown to Tipoff: Bobcats at Pacers 120219
Sunday, Feb. 19 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 6 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (18-12) vs. Bobcats (4-26)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: Two teams coming off streak-busting victories collide Sunday night in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers snapped a five-game losing streak with a 93-88 victory over the Nets Friday that lacked artistry but nevertheless offered signs of encouragement. The defensive intensity returned in the second half, when the Pacers held the Nets to 38 points and 38 percent shooting. The offense could still use some work. Indiana shot .395 in the game and managed just four fast-break points but winning ugly has become a primary trait of this team -- the Pacers have won six times when shooting less than 40 percent from the field.
Danny Granger returned from a sprained ankle to score 32 points and Roy Hibbert had his 12th double-double against the Nets. Paul George had a strong defensive game but continues to search for his 3-point stroke; he has gone 10 of 42 (.238) in the last eight games. A.J. Price has come on strong off the bench, averaging 11.0 points on .538 shooting in the last four, and David West also is surging with averages of 16.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and .492 shooting in the last five.
The Pacers have battled slow starts. In their last three games they've been outscored 94-57 in the first quarters. In the first halves of the last six, they've yielded averages of 56.0 points and .543 shooting and thrice trailed by at least 18 points. In a 99-77 victory over the Bobcats on Jan. 7, the Pacers trailed 49-43 at the break before turning the defensive screws in the second, holding Charlotte to 28 points on 22 percent shooting.
SCOUTING THE BOBCATS: A 98-91 win in Toronto Saturday was monumental for Charlotte. Not only did it break an overall losing streak of 16 games dating back to Jan. 14, it broke a road losing streak of 13 dating back to Jan. 4. Injuries have wracked the team, as leading scorer Gerald Henderson has been out with a pulled hamstring since Feb. 1, point guard D.J. Augustin only recently returned after missing three weeks with a toe injury and Corey Maggette missed more than a month with a hamstring pull. Henderson could soon join Augustin and Maggette back in the lineup as the team finally heads toward full strength.
Reggie Williams scored 22 points in Toronto but rookie center Bismack Biyombo was a huge force inside with seven blocked shots, 13 rebounds and eight points. The Bobcats rank 30th in scoring (86.9), 29th in field goal percentage (.418), 26th in 3-point percentage (.305). Defensively, they're 28th in points allowed (100.5) and 27th in field goal defense (.470). They've been outscored by an average margin of 13.6 per game, by far the widest in the league.
KEY MATCHUP: Charlotte's offensive strength, the quickness and explosiveness of point guards Augustin and Kemba Walker, just happens to challenge vulnerable areas of the Indiana defense -- namely, pick-and-rolls and penetration. "Those two guys are jets and they get in the lane at will," Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said. "They're going to challenge our pick-and-roll defense all night." Darren Collison has struggled defensively of late and needs to regain his aggression in applying ball pressure to disrupt the opposing offense.
QUOTE MARKS: "They're getting healthy, D.J. Augustin is back and a win can sometimes build confidence and have them playing at a higher level." - Vogel on the Bobcats
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Jeff Foster (lower back) day-to-day and George Hill (chip fracture, left ankle) are day-to-day. For the Bobcats, Gerald Henderson (hamstring) is out.
TICKETS: Buy now
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 6 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Austin Croshere calling the game with Brooke Olzendam hosting the pre-game show at 5:30. The radio broadcast is on 1070 The Fan, featuring Mark Boyle in his 24th season of play-by-play, joined by longtime partner 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.