The Rockets and their top scoring offense have been scorching hot lately, winning eight of their last eleven. They hold their home court advantage well with a 25-10 record at the Toyota Center.
But Indiana has also been playing well. Welding the stingiest defense in the league has helped the Pacers win four of their last five games.
But in this contest between two stout playoff teams, the Pacers will win out.
A large reason for the Rockets' success on offense this season has been the amount of possessions they get per game, averaging 99.9, most in the league.
The Pacers have the rebounders that can limit those possessions.
Indiana averages 33.4 defensive rebounds per game, second in the league, behind only Golden State. By grabbing the extra boards, the Pacers will prevent the Rockets from getting those extra scoring opportunities that they rely on.
The Pacers allow opponents a measly 34.9 points in the paint per game, fewest in the league. The Rockets offense has thrived off getting points in the paint, averaging 45.7 of their 106.4 points per game from that region of the floor.
Since Indiana does such a good job clogging up the lane, the Rockets' offense will be limited in the area in which it excels the most.
This game is more crucial for the Pacers than it is for the Rockets. Houston currently rests seventh in the Western Conference standings, with little wiggle room. They have a comfortable 3.5 game lead over the eighth-seeded Lakers, so they have little danger of falling.
They are just one game behind the Warriors for the sixth seed, but the difference between seventh and eighth in the Western Conference isn't that big. Both seeds will have to play either the Nuggets or the Thunder without home court advantage, so it's not as if there is an enticing match up they can gain at this point.
The Pacers need to keep pace with the hot Knicks, winners of five straight, if they hope to have home court until the Eastern Conference finals. Whoever plays better down the stretch will likely host a second-round series, which is quite the prize.
If the Pacers slip and the Nets catch them, then Indiana will be facing a second-round date with the Miami Heat, a matchup that should be avoided at all costs.
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