Today marks the third time this season the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets will have played each other and the first time in Indiana. The Pacers took the two games in Brooklyn, including last Monday’s 103-86 victory, and they should have no problem defending their home court against the depleted Nets.
At the beginning of the season, many thought the Brooklyn Nets would be contenders in the Eastern Conference and for good reason. A star-studded lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez made for some great headlines, but it also cost the team $180 million in salary. But as chance would have it, the Nets and first-year head coach Jason Kidd are in full panic mode sitting at an audacious 10-18. Garnett and Pierce look their age, Lopez is out for the season with a broken foot, Williams is injured every other week and Johnson still hasn’t earned his massive contract.
The Pacers, on the other hand, have taken the giant chip on their shoulder and turned it into the Eastern Conference’s best record at 23-5. Indiana’s No. 1 ranked defense has strung together three straight games where they haven’t allowed their opponent to score 90-plus points, and they have won all three.
It’s not really a fair fight between the Pacers and Nets. One team is functional, plays as a unit, and never stops fighting while the other team is old, injured and completely dysfunctional. Guess which team is which.
For the Pacers, having five days off between games was a blessing. While many players and fans were upset they didn’t get to play on Christmas, especially when the New York Knicks and Brooklyn did, the much-needed break came at a perfect time. Danny Granger just came back for the first time this year and the Pacers’ schedule has been brutal up to this point with many back-to-back games. Letting their bodies and minds rest, especially after going all out their last three games, was more valuable than playing just another game on Christmas.
Brooklyn is on the back end of a back-to-back, have won one out of their last four, and will be playing their fourth game this week. Given their inability to win and the Pacers’ rest, it’s a safe bet the Pacers will dominate their fourth game in a row and beat the Nets by more than 15 points.