The Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers have a combined 37-14 record and both seem destined for deep-runs in the playoffs. Houston boasts the league’s second most potent offense, averaging 107.1 points per game while Indiana leads as the top defense, allowing opponents to just 90.2 points.
The Pacers, for the first time all season are struggling, losing three of their last five games in the past eleven days. Indiana, however, has reinforcements on the way. Former All-Star Danny Granger will be making his return to the lineup on Friday night. The 30-year-old has been out due to a strained calve this season, after playing just five games last season due to knee issues.
Indiana has lost consecutive games for the first since last season’s playoffs. On Monday, the team fell to the Detroit Pistons 101-96 before losing to the Miami Heat 97-94 on Wednesday. Paul George dropped a game-high 25 points in the defeat, recording 8 rebounds and 6 assists as well. David West added 23 points but it was not enough to top the balanced attack from the Heat, receiving 71 points and 21 rebounds from the combined efforts of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Rockets have won four of their last six contests. Their most recent victory came against the Chicago Bulls, beating them 109-94 on Wednesday night. Dwight Howard tallied 23 points and added 9 rebounds, while James Harden scored 19 points and dished out 6 assists.
“We’re having some early success, but we’re not happy with where we’re at,” Howard said after the game. “We want to continue to get better. We don’t want to get satisfied.”
Jeremy Lin returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out the last two games with a back injury, but it is unclear when he will be returning to the court. Omer Asik, the frustrated big man who has been involved in trade rumors for the past many months, will remain with the team. He is currently battling thigh and knee issues, but is expected to play once he is healthy.
“It’s going to take a total team effort for us to win a championship,” Howard told the team’s official website. “I know he’s had a tough time, but the only thing we can do as a team is continue to lift him up and to just try to help him understand that he’s a big part of this team. I know he might not feel that way, but he is.”
It will certainly be an entertaining matchup but the Pacers are 11-1 at home and will break out of the small funk they seem to be in.
Pacers, 102 – Rockets, 98
National TV: ESPN
Time: 8:00 P.M. ET