Location: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Tip: 9:30 p.m. EST/ 8:30 CT
National TV: ESPN
Line: HOU -5.0
Tonight is the first night in a long time the Indiana Pacers have not been the favorites to win a game. That is likely because the opponent, the Houston Rockets, is one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now. Indiana is also in a funk having won five straight against weaker competition before losing their last two in sluggish fashion.
The Vegas odds give Houston the edge tonight, expecting the streaking Rockets (42-19) to win by five. Based on the recent play of the Indiana Pacers, that isn’t too far out of the question.
Indiana must focus on limiting Houston center Dwight Howard in the paint, specifically offensive rebounds for second opportunities and allowing him to convert on easy shots around the rim. For the most part, the Pacers have done a decent job of that against the Rockets in the past two seasons, but that was before Howard joined the team.
Houston enters tonight’s game with a number of weapons offensively. Although their defense needs some work, head coach Kevin McHale has done an excellent job working with a nice crop of talent.
That talent includes Howard, James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin. Lin has been in and out of the starting lineup throughout him time with Houston, but he’s been effective in either scenario.
Harden has often struggled on offense when guarded by the longer, more athletic Paul George. George is widely considered one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, and I would expect Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel to challenge George to shut down Harden once again tonight at the Toyota Center.
As far as the outcome of the game, if Indiana hopes to walk away with a win tonight it comes down to getting back to the basics. The basics in which propelled the Pacers to a blistering 16-1 start to the season. Indiana is 13-8 in their last 21 games.
A win tonight for the Pacers would give them the confidence they need, because next up is a trip to Dallas to face the Mavericks.
Based on Indiana’s recent play, I foresee Houston outlasting the Pacers tonight in front of their home crowd. Rockets win 112-102.
Tags: Indiana Pacers