Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Indiana Pacers

The Rockets move to 35-15, after their victory over the 76ers, a game that saw James Harden record his second 50 point triple double this season. The Rockets are ready for this road trip to end, as they make their last stop in Indiana to take on the Pacers. The Rockets are led in scoring, assists and rebounds by MVP candidate James Harden, at 29.1 points, 11.6 assists, and  8.2 rebounds a game. The Rockets are ranked 3rd in offensive rating, 17th in defensive rating, and 4th in net rating.

The Pacers have been a bit of a roller coaster this season, and currently sit at 24-22 on the season, following a win over the Kings, having lost 3 of their last 5 games. The Pacers have been a completely different team on the road from what they are at home, going 17-6 at home, versus just 7-16 on the road. The Pacers in scoring by all star, Paul George, at 22.7 points, rebounds by Myles Turner, at 7.4 rebounds, and in assists by Jeff Teague at 8.1 assists per game. The Pacers rank 18th in offensive rating, 16th in defensive rating, and 16th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

Eric Gordon missed his second straight game for the Rockets on Friday, due to lower back tightness, and his status for Sunday's game is up in the air. The Rockets will likely start James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and Clint Capela at center, with Eric Gordon getting starter’s minutes – if his back permits.

The Pacers were short on two rotational pieces in their last game, center, Kevin Seraphin (knee) and guard, Rodney Stucky (hamstring), and it is unclear if either will play against the Rockets. The Pacers will likely start the game with Jeff Teague at point guard, C.J. Miles at shooting guard, Paul George at small forward, Thaddeus Young at power forward, and Myle Turner at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Home Pacers – As previously mentioned, the Pacers at home and the Pacers on the road are two completely different teams this season, so Sunday's game won't be a walk in the park for the Rockets. In their home games. The Pacers have a +4.7 net rating in home games (would be good for 7th in the league), and a -6.8 net rating in away games (which would be 28th in the league), which adds up to a 11.5 difference, in other words, about the difference between the Spurs and Heat. Watch to see if the Rockets, on the final game of a road trip, are able to play with what has been a good home team.

  • The Final Stretch – The Rockets are almost done with their five game road trip, the only thing standing between them, and Houston, are the Indiana Pacers. Once the Rockets return home they have a home-filled schedule that they should be able to take advantage of. Watch to see if the tired Rockets are able to gut out one more game on the road, before getting into the easier part of their schedule.

  • Math Advantage – There is a drastic stylistic distinction between these two teams, one of them shoots a lot of threes, while the other does not. If you weren't able to figure it out, the team that likes to shoot threes is the Rockets,who are 1st in the league in three point attempt rate, and the other is the Pacers, who are 29th in three point attempt rate. Due to the difference in the amount of shots coming from behind the line, the Rockets have an offensive advantage, because, well, three is more than two. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to hit their threes and use that extra point to outpace the Pacers' scoring output.

Prediction and Tip-Off

This will be a tough game for the Rockets, but I have faith that they will pull out a win, feeling some urgency after slipping up a bit. Assuming Eric Gordon plays, look out for him to have a big shooting night, given rest and regression to the mean.

Tip-off will be at 5:00 P.M. Central Time in Indiana on Sunday, January 29th. The game will be televised on ROOTsports, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM

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