By Dan Kelly @DanKelly_NBA
BROOKLYN (46-32) at INDIANA (49-29) 7:00 P.M. ET
MATCHING THE PACE: The Nets are 3 games behind the Pacers with 4 games remaining on their schedule. If they beat the Pacers they will be only 2 games back with 3 games left (Math!). The Nets games after Indiana are @Toronto, vs Washington, vs Detroit. Very winnable games. The Pacers are @ New York, @ Boston and vs Philly. Two fairly lose-able games. If the Nets and Pacers finish with the same record the Pacers would own the tiebreaker because they won their division. The Nets need to win out and the Pacers need to lose out for the Nets to claim the 3 seed. [updated]
HOW THEY WIN: The Pacers are primarily known for their league best defense. Opponents manage only 96.1 points per 100 possessions which is amazing. But their offense has been improved since the All-Star break. With the suddenly capable Brooklyn native Lance Stephenson thrust into a starting role the Pacers improved their offensive output from 101.6 points per 100 possessions to 105.1. The Nets are known for slowing the game way down and having three good offensive players who can beat you by themselves on any given night. Their offense is averaging 107.5 points per 100 possessions since the break and their defense all year has hovered around 103.6 points per 100 possessions. But the Nets will look different heading into the playoffs.
STAR POWER: Deron Williams is happy, healthy and focused. He’s scoring and dishing and getting into the paint like a 100 million dollar point guard should. Brook Lopez has been his consistent self. His Player Efficiency Rating is 4th in the NBA behind Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul (D-Will is 28th). The only question mark is Joe Johnson who has been struggling with a heel injury. Johnson scored 20 points in the win over the Celtics on Tuesday and looked comfortable moving around.
ROLE POWER: Being good at defense does not make you a star and so the Pacers don’t really have any. Paul George is their resident All-Star but he’s still relatively unknown. In his third year in the league he’s averaging almost 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists per game. George is an explosive leaper with a smooth outside shot, but he isn’t the teams most important player. That honor goes to David West. This tough, skilled and experienced power forward is the master of the mid-range. He brings an essential element of physicality to the court which the rest of the Pacers feed off of. But his most essential skill is his ability to get a high percentage shot at the end of quarters and shot clocks. The afore mentioned Lance Stephenson actually has the highest offensive rating on the team. When Stephenson is on the court the Pacers average 106.3 points per 100 possessions. Roy Hibbert is a defensive wizard of a center who has begun to make shots on the other end. George Hill is a Dhalsim long point guard who forces opposing guards away from their strengths on offense. The Pacers are very good.
BATTLE OF THE BOARDS: This is a matchup of the first and second best post All-Star break rebounding teams in the league. The Nets grab 54% of available rebounds which is top of the class. The Pacers grab 53.7% for second place. Reggie Evans has obviously been the catalyst of this rebound renaissance. He set a franchise record against Boston for grabbing 13 or more rebounds in 8 straight games. He grabs a ridiculous 31% of the missed shots that occur while he’s on the floor. The Pacers go to the backboard as a team but they’re led by Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough who grab 15.4% and 15.2% respectively.