Game Day: Indiana Pacers versus Houston Rockets
It’s been an odd week for the Houston Rockets given they’ve only played one team (the Utah Jazz) and had several days off in between. Then again the squad probably needed the practice time as well as the rest for players like Dwight Howard and Donatas Motiejunas who are both on the injured list.
Sunday offers the opportunity for the Rockets to reverse last weeks 4 straight losses by sweeping this week with 3 consecutive victories. The Pacers arrive with 2 wins and a loss under their belts this week and questions surrounding how well they can perform on the road.
Venue: Toyota Center, Houston TX,
Game Time: 7:00 PM EST – 6:00 PM CT
TV: NBA League Pass, ROOT and FSI
Radio: 790 AM and 1070 The Fan
The Rockets swept the Pacers last season
- No injuries listed
- Dwight Howard listed as a game time decision due to back stiffness that kept him out of Thursday’s game
- Ty Lawson serving 3-game suspension for the second DUI he received last season in LA (this will be his 2nd game out) out til Jan 13
- Donatas Motiejunas – back, out until January 19th at a minimum
- Sam Dekker had bad surgery is out 3 months or until at least February 15th
Though they play different positions the obvious key pairing will be James Harden versus Paul George. Whichever team can limit the star of their opponent from scoring should have the edge on winning the day.
Keys to Winning:
- Keep the streak alive: They’ve turned around the 4 game losing steak of week 10 with an unbeaten week 11 (so far). Continuing that streak has to be the goal as the Rockets can’t afford to keep being inconsistent. Every Western team other than the Lakers sits no more than 6 games back, so if the Rockets don’t change their habits and one of those teams goes on an extended win streak (like Utah did last season) they could get knocked out of the post season completely.
- Ball and Player Movement Is Critical: Both teams use a quick pace with the Rockets slightly ahead of the Pacers, yet Indiana boasts a much higher defensive rank. For the Rockets to get the “W” they’ll need to keep the Pacers moving while stopping their pace.
- Win the rebound battle: If the Rockets take care of the boards they’ll have an easier time controlling the pace. If Howard dresses it will make the task that much easier as the Pacers are under sized.
- [As per nba.com: For some reason, taking care of the basketball on the road hasn’t mattered to Indiana. It’s 5-0 when committing 19 or more turnovers away from home and 0-7 when it has 14 or fewer.] Certainly that isn’t a trend the Pacers want to continue as sooner or later not protecting the ball is going to cost them the game.
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The odds makers have the Rockets favored by a single point with an over – under of 206.5 with the heavy action favoring the Rockets early.
Prediction: I’m still not sold on this Indiana team nor that Paul George is worthy of MVP talk. Sure it’s great he came back from that horrendous injury, but we should expect him to be the top scorer on Indiana.
Examination of the game log shows George to be very streaky. He didn’t break 20 points for 5 games in a row and then scored over 30 three games in a row. George who enjoys the spotlight tends to get up for games versus high end competition, so expect him to come out trying to show up Harden. Further, Indiana hasn’t proven their ability to play well on the road and although they have some solid wins versus teams over .500.
In fact, many of their big wins have come facing teams exhausted from tough schedules or on the second night of a back to back set. I’ll be more convinced if the Pacers survive when they string some quality wins together especially on the road. Having said that I do expect they’ll make the post season, just not as a top seed.
And while I’m confused by the consistent inconsistency of the Rockets it sure feels like they finally understand it’s time they win and move up the ladder out of the 7th and 8th rungs. Not to say it’s a guarantee sitting in the 3rd through 6th seeds, but surely avoiding the Warriors and Spurs has to be their initial goal.
Rockets by 3
For more exciting news and stories on the Indiana Pacers visit our affiliate Fansided site: 8 Points, 9 Seconds
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