Feb 8, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Indiana Pacers forward David West (21) drives the ball past Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia (behind) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Hawks defeated the Pacers 97-87. Mandatory Credit: Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE

Game Preview: New Orleans Hornets @ Indiana Pacers

New Orleans (7-24, lost last 1) @ Indiana (19-12, won last 2)

Key Stats

New Orleans

* 87.48 points per game (29th in the NBA) vs. 92.74 points allowed per game (10th)

* 43.7% FG (18th) vs. 44.8% FG allowed (18th)

* 41.39 rpg (23rd) vs. 40.19 rebounds allowed (4th)

* 19.55 apg (21st) vs. 15.48 TO pg (22nd)

Indiana

* 94.61 ppg (15th) vs. 92.19 points allowed (8th)

* 42.8% FG (24th) vs. 42.9% FG allowed (8th)

* 43.65 rppg (5th) vs. 42.32 rebounds allowed (18th)

* 17.71 appg (28th) vs. 15.07 TO pg (14th)

Position-by-position Matchups

PG-Greivis Vasquez vs. Darren Collison

SG-Marco Belinelli vs. Paul George

SF-Trevor Ariza vs. Danny Granger

PF-Gustavo Ayon vs. David West

C-Chris Kaman vs. Roy Hibbert

Key Reserves

New Orleans-Jarrett Jack, Al-Farouq Aminu, Xavier Henry

Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, A.J. Price, George Hill, Dahntay Jones

Injuries of note

New Orleans-Eric Gordon (knee, out), Emeka Okafor (knee, out), Carl Landry (knee, out), Jason Smith (head, day-to-day)

Indiana-Jeff Foster (back, day to day), George Hill (ankle, game time decision)

Breakdown:

The Hornets started the season off as hot as anyone, going 3-1 in their first four games before losing five straight to start January. But New Orleans is no easy out, and has already established itself as a giant killer. Of the teams the Hornets have unexpectedly dispatched: DEN, Utah, ORL, BOS and most recently, the New York Jeremy Lins Knicks. While the Charlotte Bobcats are perhaps even worse than they look on paper (which is pretty bad), New Orleans would be a playoff contender right now if it weren’t for several key injuries. Still, statistically the team is respectable. They outrebound their opponents, pass better than Indiana and play solid defense.

Indiana will have to use its depth in tonight’s matchup. With a trap game rematch vs. Charlotte tomorrow, Indiana needs to sustain momentum and finish off its home stand 3-0. To do this, as always, the Pacers will have to focus on two keys: Stopping point guard penetration and outplaying its opponent on the low block. Second year man Greivis Vasquez has played admirably as a starter this year, averaging 13 points and 7 assists (to only 2 TOs) in 8 starts. He’s played in over 25 minutes in all but one February game, and has three double-doubles (pionts/assists) to show for it. The Hornets are also well-stocked with perimeter defenders. Jarrett Jack, Trevor Ariza and Al-Farouq Aminu can hold their own with most NBA wings. As has been the case with many Pacers’ opponents lately though, New Orleans struggles with post offense, though it has more to do with injuries than a lack of talent. Thanks to injuries to starter Emeka Okafor and backup Carl Landry, the Hornets have been forced to include Indiana cast-off Solomon Jones into its regular rotation. Jones played over 20 minutes in last night’s loss to Oklahoma City, and as Pacers fans know first-hand, the more minutes Jones sees, the more injury-depleted your team must be.

The Pacers have turned up their intensity over the past two wins, albeit vs. pretty lowly opponents. They outrebounded the opposition in both cases, and out-shot the Bobcats 50% to 37%, a rare feat for this year’s Pacers squad. As is usually the case, as Roy Hibbert goes, so go the Pacers chances. Hibbert has logged a double-double (points/rebounds) in four of the past six Pacers wins, and in two straight wins at home. He’ll get a chance for another tonight, as injury-prone Hornets’ center Chris Kaman is the New Orleans post player most likely to offer any significant resistance. David West and Darren Collison will play their former team, which could provide some added motivation. Meanwhile, George Hill may make his much-awaited return from an ankle fracture that’s kept him out for 11 games.

Prediction: Pacers 91, Hornets 80

With the Hornets in the middle of a three-game road back-to-back-to-back, they’ll be highly motivated to get a win while they can. Unfortunately depth problems could, and should catch up with them. If the Pacers stay focused and intense, winning at home tonight and extending their winning streak to three should be no big challenge.

Fantasy Outlook:

Vasquez has been more than reliable as a starter, and is again viable tonight vs. a Pacers team that struggles against point guards. Kaman has been forced back into a starting role and hasn’t disappointed, averaging 17.2 ppg and 9.8 rpg over his last four, all starts. His FG% has been bad over that span, however, as he’s become literally the only reliable and consistent offensive option for the Hornets, meaning defenses can key in on him.

As usual, look for Hibbert to provide the only consistent numbers for Indiana. If you had been relying on Dahntay Jones or Lance Stephenson in super-deep leagues, their minutes may be affected if George Hill returns. As mentioned, West and Collison could be motivated to play well against their former team, and Danny Granger may have some motivation as well, as he’s from New Orleans. You shouldn’t need much convincing; he’s scored 26 or more in two of his last three full games played.

All your base are belong to Lucas Klipsch. Follow him on Twitter @LukeNukem317

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