The new year didn’t start off favorably for the Indiana Pacers — they suffered their sixth loss of the season to the Toronto Raptors — and they will look to rebound in their final meeting of the regular season against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Both teams came into the year with high expectations, Pacers as championship contenders and Pelicans as playoff contenders. When they met up in October they had everyone on the edge of their seats. New Orleans controlled the game, even leading by 16 at one point in the second half, but as others have found out during the season, the Pacers play their best in the second half. Indiana completed the comeback and George Hill put the game out of reach with a three-pointer in the final minute.
Since that game, both teams have went in opposite directions. The Pacers are 25-6 and surging towards another Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Miami Heat, while the Pelicans are 14-16 and struggling to keep pace for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Individually, the players on each squad have also come a long way as well. Paul George scored 32 points for the Pacers in the first meeting and has continued to put up big numbers all season. While George has averaged 23.5 points per game, his shot has been a tad off lately. Good thing for the Pacers, George has averaged 24 points per game after a loss, so this could be the game that snaps him out of his current funk.
For the Pelicans, the three-eyed monster of Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson provide a big problem for the Pacers. Holiday’s speed causes problems for Hill, especially in the pick-and-roll with Davis. Davis is a game-changer on both ends, averaging 19.2 points and 3.2 blocks per game. Then you have Anderson who is leading the Pelicans with 20.1 points and 3.1 three-pointers per game. His ability to stretch the floor and keep David West away from the basket provides another hiccup for the Pacers.
Despite the Pelicans playing in Indiana on the back-end of a back-and-back, the game should still be a fight to the finish. The matchup to watch will be Roy Hibbert versus Davis, top-two Defensive Player of the Year candidates. Hibbert was non-existent in the first meeting as he dealt with foul trouble, but Davis scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
In the end, the Pacers should have a better understanding of the Pelican’s offense, so they will have a better chance of stopping it, unlike their first meeting. Indiana has only lost back-to-back games once this year and it’s not something they will let happen again. Look for the Pacers to win this one and stay at the top of the NBA.