Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers vs. Rockets

Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Houston

SCOUTING THE PACERS: With opponents averaging 109.8 points in the last four games, bringing three defeats, the Indiana Pacers (27-34) are justly concerned about their defense. The Mavericks shot 52 percent in a 116-108 victory in Dallas on Friday, with Dirk Nowitzki scoring 29 on 10-of-12 shooting. The Pacers have been particularly vulnerable when it comes to rotating out to open shooters. In the last four games, opponents have shot 39.8 percent from the 3-point line whole averaging 23.3 attempts, turning what was a pronounced advantage for Indiana into a liability – they've been outscored 111-78 from the arc in that span. The power forward combination of Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough – dubbed "McBrough" – combined for 28 points and 10 rebounds in Dallas but after battling Nowitzki will be challenged by Rockets mainstay Luis Scola. The Pacers have gotten a nice lift off the bench from rookie Lance Stephenson, who has totaled 46 minutes, 17 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in his last three games.

SCOUTING THE ROCKETS: Where the Pacers are playing their fourth game in five nights, the Rockets (31-32) are well-rested, their last game coming Wednesday, which means they've had plenty of time to simmer over a 106-103 loss to the Clippers that snapped Houston's five-game win streak. The Rockets are 11th in the West, three games behind eighth-place Memphis, and can ill afford many more slipups. With Aaron Brooks traded to Phoenix, Kyle Lowry has stepped in at the point and played well, averaging 21 points on 50 percent shooting in the last three games, and producing 11 assists in the each of the last two. Indianapolis product Courtney Lee also is on a roll, hitting 8-of-14 from the arc in the last five games to improve his percentage to .442, which ranks fourth in the league. Houston beat the Pacers 102-99 in Conseco Fieldhouse on Nov. 12 as Brad Miller scored 23 points and Kevin Martin added 20 and is going for the first series sweep since 2007-08.

QUOTE MARKS: "We've always known there are ups and downs with the schedule. We're just battling every night. We believe a great deal in ourselves that we are going to make the playoffs." – Vogel

INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Darren Collison (sprained left ankle) is probable and Mike Dunleavy (broken left thumb) is out. For the Rockets, Yao Ming (stress fracture, left ankle) is out.

BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 8:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game and Stacy Paetz on the sideline, with a pre-game show starting at 8. The radio broadcast is anchored by the flagship of the Pacers' network, WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Bob "Slick" Leonard, with Kevin Lee reporting.

INTERACT: You can chat with other fans around the country in our live game chat, which begins at tipoff.