With the first half of the NBA season coming to a close this week — ok technically the season is more than half over, games-played wise, but you understand where we are going — the Indiana Pacers will try to win their 41st game of the season against the Dallas Mavericks at home.
Indiana is coming off their largest victory of the season, a 39-point beatdown of the Denver Nuggets, while Dallas just had their five-game winning streak snapped by the Charlotte Bobcats last night in a 25-point loss.
This will be the first matchup this season between the Pacers and the Mavericks. Indiana holds the best record in the NBA and Dallas is hanging on to eighth place in the West. Oh, and the Pacers are the toughest team to beat at home this season, having lost only two games.
So how would the Mavericks beat the Pacers, at home, on the second game of a back-to-back? By taking advantage of Indiana’s biggest weakness: turnovers.
Dallas averages 15.6 takeaways per game and the Pacers average 14.6 turnovers per game. If Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis can force George Hill and especially Lance Stephenson to make some errant plays, then the Mavericks could jump out to a large lead, which has been another Achilles heel for the Pacers lately.
But even if Dallas forces, say 20-plus turnovers they still have to get by Roy Hibbert and the league’s No. 1 defense. Indiana is allowing a league-low 90.5 points per game. And if the Bobcats can hold the Mavericks one-two offensive punch of Dirk Nowitzki and Ellis to a combined 32 points, then the Pacers should have no problems keeping them in check.
The Mavericks own the league’s seventh best offense — 104.6 ppg — and have been held to less than 100 points in only two of their past 17 games. Nowitzki is averaging 21.9 ppg and Ellis scored 19.3 ppg.
Luckily the Pacers’ offense has only gotten better as the season has progressed. They currently average 99.0 ppg, 20th best in the league. But as they’ve shown recently, on any given night they can put up 110-plus points easily. Seven times this season Indiana has scored 110-plus points and only three times have they let their opponent score 100-plus at the same time. They are 7-0 when scoring 110 or more.
Trying to figure out what Pacer is going to lead the team on a particular night has become impossible. At the beginning of the season it was Paul George every night, but as the team has gelled further, it’s become whoever is hot that night.
That hot hand has been David West in three of the past four games. He’s averaged 22.8 points during that span and put up a season-high 30 points against the Portland Trail Blazers last week. He’ll have a tougher time scoring against Nowitzki, mainly due to the size disadvantage — 7-foot-0 versus 6-foot-9.
This would actually be a perfect game for Hibbert to throw up crazy offensive numbers. The Mavericks lack a true center and allowed Al Jefferson to score 30 points last night. If Hibbert’s shot is on, we could be in for treat.
If all else fails there is still George to pick up the slack. He finally got out of his offensive slump in the loss to the Orlando Magic, scoring 27 points. He followed that up with a 12-point performance against the Nuggets, but he didn’t need to score that night so his low total is understandable.
It doesn’t seem often the Pacers get to take on a team who is on their second game of a back-to-back, especially after getting a day off. Mix that with this being Dallas’ third straight road game, and the writing is on the wall: Pacers will head into the All-Star break with their 41st victory of the season.