The Pick: Pacers 102-90
The Pacers are an elite basketball team that has made it clear that they are playing not to qualify for the postseason, but to earn home court throughout. Losing two games in a row wasn’t part of that plan and I expect them to bounce back in a big way at home on national TV tonight.
The last time we saw the Pacers, they were blowing a 15-point fourth quarter lead with Roy Hibbert on the bench (foul trouble) and Paul George not getting a foul call in the waning moments. I’m betting very much that neither one of those happens at home tonight. Both those players figure to square up defensively with the Rockets stars (James Harden and Dwight Howard), matchups that favor Indiana in a huge way. The big men figure to neutralize one another (although Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge combined for 54 points and 35 rebounds against Houston in the last eight days), but George is an elite defender that can make Harden work, while … ummm … Harden isn’t. George struggled when being defended by LeBron James and has recorded fewer than 18 points in three of his last four (only did so twice in his first 21 games), but the Rockets provide no such resistance (they allow the most FGA in the league and have given up at least 106 points in six-straight road games).
While I believe the Pacers have their way with the Rockets on the offense end, I think they can really dominate on the defensive end. Indiana is an elite defense to begin with, but they truly excel at running their opponents off the three-point line (rank in the top 20 percent of the league in 3PA and 3P% against). The Rockets take more three-pointers than anybody (5.8 percent more attempts than the New York Knicks) and score 27.2 percent of their points from distance.
Fun Fact: There are five Rockets who shoot better on the road and six Pacers who shoot better at home than Harden does from distance on the road.