Indiana Pacers (32-7) at Golden State Warriors (26-16)
The Indiana Pacers head west for their second and final big road swing of the season. They will also reach the midway point (41 games) of the regular season on Wednesday, the second of five games out west.
Tonight, Indiana takes on Golden State. The Warriors are a very pesky, run-and-gun team with a backcourt led by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. This team can score with the best of them and certainly got the best of Indiana last season.
Golden State did so in such a manner that Paul George was held scoreless for the game en route to the Pacers being defeated 92-103 on December 1, 2012. Curry, Thompson and Jarrett Jack combined to score 60 points for the Warriors. It was an emotional game, as evidenced by a second matchup between the two teams in Indy that became very physical.
Indiana got its revenge in that second game, leading to a split of the season series last year.
This season is a little bit different. Golden State has virtually the same team it did a season ago, although they no longer have Jack. His minutes have been consumed by newcomers Andre Iduodala and Jordan Crawford, both which fit seamlessly into head coach Mark Jackson’s offense. Meanwhile, Indiana is the best team in the NBA right now at 32-7.
The Pacers’ defense hasn’t changed from the last time these teams met, still holding firm to that stingy identity.
It’s that status the Pacers must bring to tonight’s game. Starting off the five-game slate with a win over a dominant offense would be a nice spark for Indiana. That begins with a defensive stance against Curry, Thompson and Iguodala.
Golden State is excellent at the inside-out game, except they take a little different approach. The offense is run through Curry and Thompson, and when the defense overplays the perimeter, the guards feed the ball into David Lee for easy buckets and short- to mid-range jump shots. Thus, David West and Luis Scola have to move their feet and get a hand in Lee’s face. Indiana’s power forwards have to get Lee out of his comfort zone.
Matchup to watch: Golden State backcourt vs. Indiana backcourt.
X-factor: Indiana’s Lance Stephenson.
Prediction: Close game, but the Pacers win their fifth straight, 104-100.