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Indiana Pacers @ Houston Rockets: feat. Jared Wade of 8 Points, 9 Seconds

Teams: Indiana Pacers @ Houston Rockets
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Venue: Toyota Center, Houston TX
Television: ESPN

Notes: In the first meeting between Houston and Indiana on December 20th in Indianapolis, the Pacers hammered the Rockets, 114-81.  The Rockets were missing both Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.

Dwight Howard was the only Rocket to produce at anything near his per-game averages: 19 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocks in 31 minutes.

Despite David West only scoring 12 points in that match-up, Terrence Jones somehow managed to have -30 point differential in only 25 minutes played.  Chandler Parsons (-23 in 33 mins) was the only other Rocket over under -20.

The last time the Pacers beat a winning team was exactly a month ago, an overtime win against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Insider’s View – Q&A with Jared Wade of 8 Points, 9 SecondsFollow Jared on Twitter @8pts9secs and also @Jared_Wade.

MF – The Pacers are 12-4 going back to February 1st, but have only one win against a team with a winning record during that span and just three total since New Year.  The media hot points for Indiana’s recent struggles have been Paul George’s regression to mean in his mid-range game after a torrid start and Roy Hibbert’s overall shooting percentage.  Is the difference really that simple or are there other issues currently facing the Pacers?

JW – Those are certainly the two banner issues. There also seems to just be a genuine lethargy that has infected the team. Whether that is just the normal drag of an 82-game season weighing on them or something more insidious is tough to say. Fans of the team are certainly hoping it’s the latter, but there are signs it could be the worse scenario. At times, it looks as if these guys read too many of their early-season news clippings and now think they can walk their way to the Eastern Conference Finals and even beat Miami if they earn home court. If that is the case, then this recent slide may ultimately be beneficial as a wake-up call.

The Rockets and Pacers face a similar challenge this offseason, as they both have to figure out what to do with their prized former-second round draft picks, Chandler Parsons and Lance Stephenson.  Is there any scenario where Stephenson doesn’t stay in Indiana and did that perhaps play into the Evan Turner trade?

Oh for sure. Off hand, I don’t know the exact (projected) amount of room Indiana will have below the luxury tax threshold, but it is going to be very, very, very tight. If Lance will return for $10 million a year, they may well be able to clear enough room to sign him to a four-year/$40 million deal. But if another team throws something like $12 million per season at him? He’s probably gone, unless he wants to offer the Pacers a discount. By all accounts, Indiana won’t go above the tax line, so it will all come down to what other GMs offer — and we all know that there’s usually one guy who will spend recklessly.

Sticking with Turner, how has he changed the dynamic of the Pacers so far?  And what do you expect his and Andrew Bynum’s impact to be down the stretch

He has had two really nice scoring game (vs. Boston and Charlotte) that have showed just how dynamic he can be off the bench. In recent years, the team hasn’t had many players who can just take the ball and create something out of nothing. He isn’t exactly prime-Dwayne Wade, but against second units, he looks to be a guy who they will be able to rely on to have a few big-scoring nights in the playoffs. As for Bynum, I have no idea. Ian Mahinmi has been playing better of late, so it’s still altogether possible Bynum never sees the court. I’m not expecting anything until we start to see minutes, let alone production.

Most Rockets fans adored Luis Scola about as much as a fanbase can love a goofy, below-the-rim offensive specialist.  How, if at all, has he been an improvement over Tyler Hansbrough as far as getting to the ECF and (presumably) past the Heat?

He looked great early in the year when everything was coming up Milhouse for Indiana. The improvement he gave the Pacers over Hansbrough couldn’t be calculated by common mathematics. Lately, however, he hasn’t been able to make a shot: 38% in January and 37% in February. He has been a bit better since the All-Star break, though, so Indiana is hoping this slump may be ending and he can go back to being a productive player off the bench who will only further highlight the big-man advantage the team has over Miami.

True or False:  The Pacers would be the favorites in a 7-game series against the Heat with home court advantage.

False. LeBron James, as of this writing, remains alive.

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