Indiana looks to complete the season sweep of Brooklyn

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Ouch. After losing a close game to Atlantic Division leading Toronto on Monday, the Nets welcomed the red hot Oklahoma City Thunder to Barclays last night. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, they couldn't slow Kevin Durant and friends down & were on the receiving end of a 25 point beat down. While Durant's scoring streak ended, he did have the most efficient shooting game of his career. The Nets are now 20-24 and are 1.5 games behind six seed Washington.

Awaiting the Nets this Super Bowl eve will be the Indiana Pacers. Indiana has steadily improved each of the past couple of seasons and are currently residing at the top of the Eastern Conference. The Pacers have been off since Thursday after losing at home to the upstart Phoenix Suns. The Pacers have won the first three games of the season series and are looking to complete the season sweep.

And late word is that the Pacers will have a new body on the roster by game time. Larry Bird announced Saturday morning the Pacers have signed Andrew Bynum. It's unlikely he'll be active. He hasn't played in more than a month.

The season so far

What's the story with these two? Let's check the numbers:

2013-2014

Brooklyn

Indiana

Record

20-24 35-10

Pace

93.6 95.76

Offensive Efficiency

103.1 102.6

Defensive Efficiency

105.6 93.9

Offensive Rebounding percentage

22.7 25.1

Turnover rate

15.4 15.8

Assist rate

16.7 16.2

Rebound rate

48.1 52.6

Free throw rate

31.4 28.7

Effective Field Goal percentage

50.1 49.8

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.7 44.9

Add one more to the injury pile. Andray Blache injured his hip against the Thunder and didn't return to the game. Andrei Kirilenko missed Friday's game due to a sore calf. There hasn't been an update on their status as of this writing.

By the numbers, Deron Williams hasn't really been bad. However, he hasn't been at the high level fans expected & has tested Net fans' patience as a result. With Brook Lopez out, Williams is now the team's best offensive player and has been having one of his better years shooting thee pointers. The problem is that he's dealt with injury & has turned the ball over at the highest rate of his career. He did have a good game against the Pacers the first time but had one of his worst of the year against George Hill and company in the December 23 contest.

If Blatche is out of action, they're gonna need a big game out of Mirza Teletovic. After an amazing stretch of shooting for most of January, he stumbled near the end of the month, converting on only 30.4 percent of his field goals over the last three games and only three three pointers made. There might also be extended minutes for Reggie Evans if Blatche doesn't play. He got his first game action in three weeks on Friday, and even then only played for 2:40 in a blowout. Maybe Coach Kidd will have Mason Plumlee get some minutes in a non-blowout situation. He only played 12 minutes, so it's not a crazy thought to assume that Kevin Garnett will be available.

A lot of eyes are gonna be on Brooklyn's own Lance Stephenson. Despite his campaign, Stephenson was not named to the All Star team. Although he's fourth among the starters in usage rate, he's still averaging 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists on 50 percent shooting from the floor along with some triple doubles along the way. He's mad about getting snubbed and with the person (Johnson) who made the team ahead of him on the other side, Stephenson will probably be even more motivated than usual to have a big night.

They're still the best defense in the league by a healthy margin. They lead the league in: defensive efficiency, opponent's effective field goal percentage and defensive rebounding. Along with this, they're seventh in opponent's free throw rate. How do they do it? In simplest terms, they don't allow teams to take good shots. Due to the length & quickness of Stephenson, Hill & George, teams don't make it into the restricted area very often, taking the majority of their shots on the perimeter. Teams are first in attempts from the midrange area but also take the third fewest amount of three pointers overall. If they do make it to the rim (a feat that rarely happens against this Pacer defense), Roy Hibbert will be waiting for them. Teams attempt about ten shots a game at the rim against Hibbert, but shoot only 41 percent. He's a strong defender in the post, averages over two blocks a game and has made maximum use of the verticality rule. It's practically impossible to score against this defense, but Mike Prada over at the mothership has a look at some things that worked against Indy when they went on their recent West Coast road trip.

Player to watch: Paul George

George has improved each season and has grown into one of the league's best players. This year, George is averaging 23 points and six rebounds on a true shooting percentage of 57.5 in 36 minutes a night. He's seen a big increase in usage, and he's increased his efficiency along the way. He's gotten much better finishing at the rim, making 65 percent of his shots from inside the restricted area as opposed to only 56 percent at the same time last season. The big reason his shooting efficiency has jumped is his increase in trips to the free throw line. At this point last season, George only got to the line about three times a game. his year, that number has almost doubled and he's getting there about six times per contest. His good shooting from the line and all over the court in addition to his decrease in turnovers has led George to a spot on the All Star team and into the discussion of who's been the Most Valuable Player through the first half of the season.

He's earned comparisons defensively to players as good as Scottie Pippen, and George has lived up to that billing. At 6-8 and with the wingspan of a seven footer, George can practically cover four positions effectively. He's also very agile and that makes him more than capable of keeping up with the league's premier perimeter players. The Pacers have maintained their defensive excellence even when George is out of the game, but that's not a slight on PG at all.

The Nets are gonna have a tough time covering George. He's got the speed and quickness advantage over Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson, and he will look to drive past them whenever the opportunity presents itself. As a team, the Nets have the league's fifth highest opponent's free throw rate, and with the unsure status of Blatche & Kirilenko, that spells big trouble when matched up against a player that gets to the line as often as George does. He's also got enough size to throw off Paul Pierce & Joe Johnson when they get into the low post.

From the Vault

Head on back to the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals and watch Reggie Miller & the Pacers take on Michael Jordan and the five time Champion Chicago Bulls.


More reading: Indy Cornrows

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