I'd like to start this preview on a sad note. Rockets radio announcer Craig Ackerman lost his parents yesterday in an automobile accident. I think I can speak for all of The Dream Shake when I say we extend thoughts and prayers to the Ackerman family during this time. Sometimes basketball comes last, and this is one of those times.
Unfortunately, this is a big game. Both teams want it badly.
The Rockets would like to put some pressure on the Warriors, while the Pacers want to solidify their spot at #2 in the East.
I said that the Rockets needed to go 5-2 on the 7-game home stand, and they've accomplished that. Now if they could get 6-1 that would be awesome, and would ensure 2-2 on what Jason Friedman has deemed "Hell Week." The specter of the Grizzlies and Clippers loom large, but the Rockets have to get through this game. A win would go a long way and would keep the Rockets ahead of that pack of 8-10 teams in the West. The Pacers take the Mavericks tomorrow, so a win today might piss them off and they might take it out on the Mavs.
Finally, someone needs to give McHale credit for the inbounds play against the Spurs. Harden inbounding to Asik then using Asik as a pick with the handoff was brilliant. I know Harden made a tough shot, but that play set the whole thing up.
Update: According to Feigen, West and Granger are out, Hill is a game-time decision.
Tip-off at 7pm CST.
PG: Jeremy Lin vs. D.J. Augustin
A common theme for the Pacers is injury. The normal starter here is George Hill, who is questionable for tonight's game. David West has missed the Pacers' last five games. Lance Stephenson has been out with a hip injury and Danny Granger has been out for quite a while with a knee injury.
All of those guys are close to returning and all except Granger could be active for the Rockets game. That sucks for Houston, but it's great if you're a Pacers fan.
I think Jeremy has to find his zone again. There's no way Patrick Beverly is better than Lin when both are playing well, but McHale made the right decision to go with Bev late.
SG: James Harden vs. Gerald Green
Gerald Green has been a feel-good story. He went from dunker to chunker to whatever he is now. He's still not a good shooter, and he isn't know for his defense. But he's athletic and that fits in with the Pacers on defense.
Harden earned the Western Conference Player of the Week. The best part is that no one is surprised by that. We expect Harden to get awards. He may not finish as an All-NBA selection since Kobe and Wade will get more attention, but I agree with Patrick. I'd rather have Harden than the other two, especially looking to the future.
He's a Rocket for 5 more years. That's become my mantra when I'm feeling down for whatever reason.
All hail Morey.
SF: Chandler Parsons vs. Paul George
George couldn't miss against the Rockets the first time these teams met in Indy. I don't expect things to be any different, because any time a player can be a Rockets killer, they do it.
I am terrified of George based off one game. He joins Jason Terry, Bassy Telfair, Thaddeus Young, and Robin Lopez as guys who turn from decent/good players into superstars when they play us.
PF: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Tyler Hansbrough
Both Hansbrough brothers play in Indy, and we all remember Psycho T from college.
He's physical, he's a monster, and he has a decent jumper and post game. It will be a test for D-Mo tonight. And if David West plays, it's uh-oh time for D-Mo.
C: Omer Asik vs. Roy Hibbert
Asik: 3 years, $25 million. Averages 10/12/1
Hibbert: 4 years, $58 million. Averages 11/8/3
The Pacers have Jeff Pendergraph, Sam Young, Ian Mahinmi, Ben Hansbrough, and Orlando Johnson. Plus some of their starters might be on the bench if the original starters return.
The Rockets have Patrick Beverley, Carlos Delfino, Thomas Robinson, and Greg Smith
Advantage: Not going to guess because there's too much uncertainty.
Prediction: Rockets pull out a quality win, 100-92.