Pacers vs Rockets

Game Preview: Pacers vs Rockets

Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 at 7:00 PM ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Pacers.com Game Preview presented by DraftKings

Matchup

After Monday's thrilling 118-116 overtime victory at the New Orleans Pelicans, the Pacers (5-2) return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse for a two-game homestand. On Wednesday, they'll square off against the always-potent James Harden and the Houston Rockets (2-3). The Rockets will be coming off their second 13-point loss of the season, a 113-100 defeat to the Dallas Mavericks.

Despite Houston's slow start, Harden finds himself in a familiar position among the NBA's scoring leaders. As of Tuesday morning, the 11-year veteran sits in first place, averaging 33 points over four contests. Against the Mavericks, he was limited to 21 points on 5-of-17 shooting — his lowest scoring output of the season so far. However, in two games against the Pacers last season, Harden averaged 44.5 points per contest.

Aiding Harden on the scoreboard this year are Rockets newcomers Christian Wood and John Wall. Wood, an NBA journeyman, is on his sixth team in as many seasons, although he seems to have found his place in Houston. The former UNLV center is averaging a career-high 23.6 points in five games started this year. Wall, the former no. 1 overall draft pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, was acquired in a blockbuster offseason trade that sent Russell Westbrook to the Washington Wizards. In his first year with a new team, Wall is averaging 21.3 points and 6.3 assists per contest.

Most of Houston's struggles can be attributed to its subpar defense to start the season. The Rockets come into their matchup against the Pacers with the seventh-lowest defensive rating, allowing 113.1 points per 100 possessions. The Blue & Gold should find plenty of success on the offensive end against the visitors, as coach Nate Bjorkgren's high-flying offense has the NBA's sixth-highest offensive rating (113 points per 100 possessions).

There should be plenty of space on the floor to find the open man throughout this contest. Three Pacers starters — Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, and Domantas Sabonis — are averaging 20 points or more through the first seven games of the season. Look for the squad to share the ball and continue that trend during this game. The Pacers rank fourth in the NBA in assists per game (27.7).

Projected Starters

Pacers: PG - Malcolm Brogdon, SG - Victor Oladipo, SF - Aaron Holiday, PF - Domantas Sabonis, C - Myles Turner
Rockets: PG - John Wall, SG - James Harden, SF - David Nwaba, PF - P.J. Tucker, C - Christian Wood

Injury Report

Pacers: Goga Bitadze - out (right ankle sprain), Brian Bowen II - out (partial groin tear), Jeremy Lamb - out (left knee rehabilation), Jalen Lecque - out (left ankle sprain), T.J. Warren - out (left foot stress fracture)

Rockets: Chris Clemons - out (right Achilles surgery), Danuel House Jr. - out (back spasms), Mason Jones - out (right ankle sprain), Kenyon Martin Jr. - out (return to play conditioning), Ben McLemore - out (return to play conditioning)

Last Meeting

Aug. 12, 2020: Despite a 45-point, 17 rebound performance from James Harden, the then-shorthanded Indiana Pacers walked away with a 108-104 victory last year in the Orlando bubble. With Domantas Sabonis, T.J. Warren, and Malcolm Brogdon all sidelined, the Blue & Gold found production from Myles Turner and Justin Holiday. The duo scored 18 points apiece en route to the victory. Turner also hauled in 12 rebounds to notch a double-double. Edmond Sumner also added a season-high 17 points off the bench.

Houston raced out to a 20-5 lead early in the first. But Indiana responded with a 21-8 surge to keep within striking distance for the majority of the game. The Blue & Gold held slim leads at both halftime (51-50) and the third quarter (79-77) as the game remained tight to the final seconds.

A Chris Clemons three pulled Houston to within four, 106-102, with 2:22 to play. However, neither team then scored for the next two minutes of action. Harden's layup with 26.7 seconds remaining then cut Indiana's lead to just two.

However, on the other end, Justin Holiday ended up hauling in a clutch offensive rebound. He was then fouled and sealed the game at the free throw line. The victory gave Indiana a top-five seed heading into the 2019-20 NBA Playoffs.

Noteworthy

  • Doug McDermott averaged 17 points in two games against the Houston Rockets last season and finished 6-of-9 from beyond the arc against the team.
  • The Pacers have dropped five of their last six contests against the Rockets.
  • Indiana is eyeing its first home victory against Houston since Jan. 29, 2017.

Broadcast Information TV & Radio Listings »

TV: FOX 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), Pat Boylan (sideline reporter/host)





by Brendan Rourke
Pacers.com Contributor

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