The Pacers are 27-34 and trying to clinch the eighth spot in the East (though I'm sure they want to get a little higher), but the Charlotte Bobcats are only a game behind in the standings. It'll be interesting to see which team is more desperate: the one holding on for dear life to the plays or the one struggling to get into the hunt?
Indiana spent last night playing the Mavericks, and I was able to catch most of the game. In one of the few instances where it was nice to get every Mavs game on television here, I saw that the Pacers scored on the Mavs at ease, but could not stop a nosebleed, as Bart Scott would say. The Mavs won 116-108, but used a second quarter surge to hold off the Pacers, who couldn't rebound the ball at all. Only two players had more than 3 rebounds. We know how that's like some nights.
The Rockets play seven of their next nine at the Yote. Included in this trip are home and aways against Phoenix, as well as San Antonio, Boston, and Utah all coming to Houston as well. Here's the deal: 45 wins might be the magic number, or at least the number the Rockets can realistically shoot for. The team would need to go 14-5 for that to happen. It's possible, but improbable. Looking at the schedule, they really have to go 7-2 during this stretch.
Tonight is a one-game homestand, followed by a back-to-back on the road, with the second being the Phoenix Suns, a team the Rockets desperately need to beat. But for now, the focus has to be the Indiana Pacers, a club that's struggling and only 10-20 on the road.
And speaking of Indiana, I think we're all still pissed off on their behalf about Reggie Miller being ignored by the Hall of Fame committee, who wouldn't know talent if it scored 8 points in 9 seconds at Madison Square Garden.
Anyway, onto the matchups.
Collison could give the Rockets trouble. If he stays outside and throws up jumpers, we should be okay. If he decides to drive and get teammates involved, then we're screwed.
Rush hit all three of his threes against the Mavs. Unfortunately, he only took four shots total, so he was generally ineffective. He's athletic enough to cause trouble too, and I doubt K-Mart will be able to stay with him. If he gets hot early, Courtney Lee will have to come in and try to hold back the tide.
I need K-Mart to be better. As Xiane pointed out, he finished with a positive +/- against the Clippers when no one else did, but he looked terrible.
The Rockets face their first good small forward since the Battier trade. It's true. This will be a test of our wing defense. Courtney Lee can't guard everybody. What happens when their wings are getting to the basket at will? It's going to be scary.
McRoberts was allergic to missing last night, finishing 5-5 and hitting all five of his free throws to finish with 15 points. But he only got 19 minutes of playing time, so I don't know whether he wasn't playing well on defense against Dirk (likely) or whether no one noticed he was shooting well (unlikely).
Scola, if you leave one more shot short, I will never forgive you.
Okay, I will, but don't do it again.
Hibbert has come into his own this season, and has developed into a pretty good player. He averaging 15/7 in February with a couple of blocks and assists thrown in. He's the kind of center I wish the Rockets had, not someone like Asik.
I expect Chuck to play well, just like always. So against my better judgment this will be even.
Advantage: Rockets, but it's really close
Pacers: Mike Dunleavy ou
Rockets: Yao out
Prediction: Rockets will pull it out