Game Preview: Pacers vs Nets
Wednesday, January 5, 2022 at 7:30 PM ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse
The Pacers (14-24) return to Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Wednesday to host the Brooklyn Nets (23-12) on the second night of a back-to-back.
It has been a difficult post-holiday stretch for the Blue & Gold, who have dropped five straight while dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak on the roster. Eight players have entered the NBA's health and safety protocols since Christmas. Two of those players — Jeremy Lamb and Malcolm Brogdon — cleared protocols on Tuesday, but their availability is uncertain as they try to get their conditioning level up after nearly a week in quarantine.
Despite being significantly undermanned, the Pacers have still remained competitive thanks to some recent additions. 28-year-old Keifer Sykes made his NBA debut on Dec. 29 and has started the last two games at point guard. Sykes was outstanding on Tuesday night in New York, scoring a team-high 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting (4-of-8 from 3-point range) while also tallying four rebounds, six assists, and a steal.
The Pacers have also signed four players to 10-day hardship contracts to help bolster the roster with so many players in protocols. The most notable name in that group is Lance Stephenson. The fan favorite has averaged 5.5 points and 2.5 assists in 15 minutes off the bench over the past two road games and figures to get a loud ovation from the Pacers faithful on Wednesday night at the Fieldhouse.
Nationally, all eyes will be on the Nets on Wednesday as Kyrie Irving is expected to make his season debut. The seven-time All-Star is unvaccinated and therefore unable to play in home games due to a current vaccine mandate in New York City. Because of that, the team originally planned to play without Irving this season, but they reversed course when dealing with a COVID outbreak in December.
Irving rejoined the team with intent of playing in road games, but he himself went into the health and safety protocols, delaying his return to the court. He has since cleared protocols and Brooklyn has targeted Wednesday for his debut.
Pacers: PG - Keifer Sykes, SG - Duane Washington Jr., SF - Justin Holiday, PF - Domantas Sabonis, C - Myles Turner
Nets: PG - James Harden, SG - Kyrie Irving, SF - DeAndre' Bembry, PF - Kevin Durant, C - Nic Claxton
Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon - doubtful (return to play reconditioning), Chris Duarte - doubtful (return to play reconditioning), Jeremy Lamb - doubtful (return to play reconditioning), Goga Bitadze - out (health and safety protocols), Torrey Craig - out (right groin strain), Isaiah Jackson - out (health and safety protocols), Caris LeVert - out (health and safety protocols), Kelan Martin - out (health and safety protocols), T.J. McConnell - out (sore right wrist), T.J. Warren – out (health and safety protocols)
Nets: LaMarcus Aldridge - questionable (sore right foot), Joe Harris - out (left ankle surgery)
Oct. 29, 2021: James Harden tallied 29 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists to lead the Nets to a 105-98 win over the Pacers in Brooklyn. Harden alone went 16-for-19 from the free throw line, while the Pacers went 16-for-23 as a team.
Torrey Craig had a career-best 28 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for Indiana in the loss, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range.
"We had to be more aggressive," Craig said of his performance. "Malcolm (Brogdon) is out, Caris (LeVert) is out, we're missing a lot of key guys. So I knew somebody had to step up, and it was an opportunity for me to step up. That's what I tried to do."
Rookie guard Chris Duarte scored 19 for the Pacers, while Domantas Sabonis added 16 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.
Kevin Durant had 22 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists for the Nets and LaMarcus Aldridge added 21 points and eight boards.
- The Pacers have lost five straight games against Brooklyn.
- The Nets have won four straight games at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Indiana's last home win over the Nets came on Oct. 20, 2018.
- Irving is set to play his first NBA game since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on June 13, 2021, a game he exited early with a sprained right ankle.
The Pacers return to Gainbridge Fieldhouse to host Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, Jan. 5 at 7:30 PM ET. Find Tickets »
Broadcast Information TV & Radio Listings »
TV: Bally Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Eddie Gill (analyst), Pat Boylan (sideline reporter/host)