Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Indiana Pacers

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After winning their second straight coming out of the All Star break, the Rockets get ready to take on the Indiana Pacers. At nearly five games ahead of fourth, the Rockets have an iron grip on the 3rd seed, at 42-18, on a 57 win pace. The Rockets are led in scoring, assists and rebounds by none other than James Harden, at 28.9 points, 11.3 assists, and  8.1 rebounds a game. The Rockets are ranked 2nd in offensive rating, 15th in defensive rating, and 3rd in net rating.

The Pacers just barely holding on, after winning just one of their last eight games the Pacers have slid to 6th in the East, just three games away from being 11th. The Pacers are led in scoring by Paul George, at 21.8 points, in assists by Jeff Teague, at 8.1 assists, and in rebounding by Myles Turner, who pulls in 7.2 rebounds per game. The Pacers currently rank 13th in offensive rating, 19th in defensive rating, and 14th in net rating, with a flat 0.0.

Starting Lineups

We should expect more of the same from the Rockets, with 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 to start the game, with Eric Gordon and possibly Lou Williams, getting starter’s minutes.

With no major injuries 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 Myles Turner at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • Race for 58 – With the Rockets on pace for 57 wins, it is not out of the question they hit 58. You may be wondering "What's so special about 58?", and the answer is: The Rockets have never won more than 57 games in a season. Ever. The Rockets will have to go 16-6 in order to have their best regular season ever, and with their upcoming schedule, starting Monday, it will be hard to do.

  • End of the Season Series – These two teams meet only twice this season, with the Pacers dominating a tired Rockets team the last time these two matched up. Two of the biggest factors in the loss were Harden's ability to get going (just 3-17 from the field and only 8 assists), and the Rockets innability to contain Paul George, who finished with 33 points and nine rebounds. Watch to see if Trevor, with rested legs, can do a better job on PG13, and if Harden can play well, though if he doesn't we may see the impact of Lou Williams as a second creator for the offense.

  • Don't Get Beaten on the Boards – After maintaining a top 10 defensive rebound percentage early in the year, the Rockets have dropped all the way to 18th in the league. Luckily for them the Pacers are a bad offensive rebounding team, just 26th in the league, giving them an opportunity to work things out against a weak rebounding opponent. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to limit second chances, and if they aren't rebounding may be a bigger concern than many thought.

Prediction and Tip-Off

The Rockets are out for revenge. After failing to take down the Pacers in Indiana, I believe a revitalized Rockets team will take advantage of the struggling pacers on their way to a 3rd straight victory.

Tip-off will be at 8:30 P.M. Central Time in Houston on Monday, February 27th. The game will be televised on TNT with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM. The Rockets will also honor former Rocket, current Pacer, Aaron Brooks as part of their Rockets 50 celebrations.

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