New Jersey (8-22, lost last seven) @ Indiana (17-12, lost last five)
* 92.57 points per game (23rd in the NBA) vs. 100.13 points allowed per game (27th)
* 42.4% FG (28th) vs. 49.2% FG allowed (30th)
* 38.83 rpg (30th) vs. 41.27 rebounds allowed (10th)
* 20.3 apg (19th) vs. 15.67 TO pg (23rd)
* 94.21 ppg (17th) vs. 93 points allowed (10th)
* 42.7% FG (26th) vs. 42.9% FG allowed (8th)
* 43.38 rppg (7th) vs. 42.83 rebounds allowed (22nd)
* 17.62 appg (29th) vs. 15.10 TO pg (16th)
PG-Deron Williams vs. Darren Collison
SG-Marshon Brooks vs. Paul George
SF-DeShawn Stevenson vs. Dahntay Jones
PF-Kris Humphries vs. David West
C-Shelden Williams vs. Roy Hibbert
New Jersey-Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro, Sundiata Gaines
Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, A.J. Price, Lance Stephenson
Injuries of note
New Jersey-Jordan Farmar (groin, day to day), Brook Lopez (foot, out), Memhet Okur (back, out)
Indiana-Jeff Foster (back, day to day), George Hill (ankle, out), Danny Granger (ankle, game time decision)
New Jersey looks like one of the worst teams in the entire NBA on paper, with cellar-dwelling stats almost entirely across the board, and an ugly 8-22 record. But over the last five games, all losses for Indiana, the Pacers have given them a run for their money on the ineptitude front. During the losing streak the pacers are 22nd in the league in scoring, 27th in points allowed, 23rd in FG%, 26th in FG% allowed and 30th in assists per game (by a two assist margin from the 29th team!). The fact of the matter is, the Pacers look right now like they can’t beat anyone, and it has a lot to do with the team’s ineptitude on defense at the point of attack. In last night’s game vs. Cleveland the Cavs shot 61% in the first half, and finished the game literally shooting a whole 10% higher from the field than the Pacers. It doesn’t help that Danny Granger, Indiana’s most consistent offensive weapon, was out last night (and may miss tonight’s game), nor does it help that tonight’s tilt comes on the tail end of a back-to-back-to-back for the already lackadaisical-looking Pacers. But at this point, at least for the moment, all hope of Indiana turning things around in less than 24 hours seems futile.
The Nets are luckily coming off of a home loss and are so desperately injured and disinterested that they almost make the Pacers look like an above average NBA team. New Jersey deactivated a whopping four players due to injury for last night’s game vs. Memphis, and one of them (Jordan Farmar) has been an integral part of the Nets’ rotation all year, and especially over the last several games. Farmar is a question mark for tonight’s game, but mentioning him reminds me of the Pacers’ biggest problem (which was again exposed last night) and that’s defending ball handlers. I can only imagine what Deron Williams will do to Indiana tonight, if the Pacers play like they have been over the past five games. In two previous losses to the Pacers this year, Williams has averaged 28 ppg on 47% shooting. And he’s found his chi on offense lately, a phenomenon that happens to coincide with the approaching trade deadline. Over the last 12 games he’s averaged 25 points and 9 assists on 44% shooting. Prior to that stretch he was averaging near 18 on sub 40% shooting, so his hot streak has been significant. What’s worrisome for the Pacers regarding Williams is that everyone on either team will know he’s taking all the important shots, but Indiana’s defense will most likely still not have any idea how to stop the inevitable from happening.
Hibbert upped his production a little last night with 17 points and 8 rebounds, but in the grand scheme of things, was still pretty timid given the competition. More disconcerting was his (and the rest of the Pacers’ bigs) lack of effort and effectiveness on defense. It’s one thing when Darren Collison predictably can’t stop a very good point guard like Kyrie Irving, but another thing entirely when Semih Erden (admit it, you’ve never heard of him) puts up 18 and 8 on your All-Star-led frontcourt. Unacceptable.
Prediction: Pacers 91, Nets 84
The Pacers have no business even talking about the playoffs at this point. With a home matchup against one of the league’s worst teams, one would think the Pacers could pretty easily take care of things tonight. But in a sparsely-attended stadium, coming off of a two losses in back-to-back nights and playing the way they are, any loss is possible for the Pacers. I’m so far 0-2 in game preview predictions, so I hate to jinx tonight’s game with another call for a win, but I believe if they can’t get things done tonight, they can’t very well do anything positive for the forseeable future. And I refuse to believe my team is as bad as it currently looks.
Williams is hot right now, so you have to roll with him. For points and threes, you could do a lot worse than Anthony Morrow, even if he’s coming off the bench. He exploded for 42 on Feb 3 and hit three treys off the bench last night. Kris Humphries will always provide good rebounding numbers, though he’s been quiet of late. His percentages are also good for a big man, and he’s a sneaky source for blocks as well (averaging over 1 per game).
At this point there’s no real purpose recommending anyone on the Pacers because it should be obvious who you should start, and there are so few reliable options. Collison has scored in double figures in half of his February games, but has been generally ineffective in two games this season vs. New Jersey, and by and large doesn’t function well as a point guard, fantasy-wise.
Lucas Klipsch is a so-called amateur sports writer who believes the world revolves around bacon strips and bacon strips and bacon strips and bacon strips. Follow him on Twitter @LukeNukem317