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Houston Rockets vs. Indiana Pacers game preview

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The last time these two teams met, the Houston Rockets led the Indiana Pacers 25-10 after the first quarter.

Remember what happened next? Houston basically decided they were done trying, the offense fell off the cliff, and the Pacers came back to grab a 99-91 victory.

It was early in the season, but even at that point it appeared clear that the Pacers had no intention of tanking this season. Now, with fewer than 20 games remaining, Indiana sits three back in the loss column from an appealing play-in spot. Not bad for a team that spent much of last season trying to “catch” Houston for worst overall record.

The Pacers are coming off a 147-143 loss to the 76ers in what has to have been one of the closest games through three quarters I’ve ever seen. The largest lead through 39 minutes of action was six points. The Pacers shot 59% from the field, 41% from deep, and committed only nine turnovers. I don’t know what the win probability is with metrics like that, so I’ll just make it up and say teams win 98% of games in which they hit those marks.

Tyrese Haliburton dropped 40 for the Pacers, and he’s probably salivating at the prospect of going against a team that allowed Damian Lillard to drop 71 points without breaking a sweat. Andrew Nembhard is also likely to play with a pep in his step after watching his Gonzaga Bulldogs absolutely wallop the St. Mary’s Gaels in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship.

Tip-off is at 6pm CT on AT&T SportsNet Southwest