Nets-Pacers Preview

The Indiana Pacers have responded to their only losing streak of

the season with their best all-around play of 2013-14.

After spending a majority of this season showcasing an

impressive defense, the Pacers have been outstanding on both ends

of the floor of late heading into their second straight matchup

against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.

The Pacers (23-5) lost back-to-back games against Detroit on

Dec. 16 and Miami two days later before scoring a season high in a

114-81 victory over Houston on Dec. 20. They followed that with a

106-79 rout of Boston before beating the Nets 103-86 on Monday.

Indiana, which leads the NBA with 89.4 points allowed per game,

had been scoring an average of 97.6 points prior to its recent

surge.

Brooklyn native Lance Stephenson, who recorded his NBA-leading

third triple-double against the Celtics, scored a career-high 26

against the Nets and Paul George also had 26.

“Lance Stephenson and Paul George just keep putting in special

performances and they’re really giving us a big lift,” Vogel

said.

The loss was one that Nets forward Paul Pierce would like to

forget after he failed to score while shooting 0 for 7. His only

other scoreless night in a 15-year career came in a 10-minute

outing against the Charlotte Hornets on March 9, 1999, during his

rookie season.

Pierce was also ejected for a flagrant foul on George Hill and

subsequently fined $15,000 by the league. During a 20-4 run by the

Pacers in the third quarter, Hill was going in for a layup when

Pierce tried to wrap him up. His arm ended up going around Hill’s

neck for a clothesline tackle and referees ruled it a flagrant 2

after review, an automatic ejection, though even Hill wasn’t sure

it warranted that.

“It was a basketball play. I think back in the day, hard fouls

was good,” he said. “So, it was a hard foul, but at the end of the

day, don’t let it rattle you and that’s what I thought about.”

Indiana, which also beat the Nets in Brooklyn 96-91 on Nov. 9,

is 13-1 at home as it gets set to play eight of its next 11 at

Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers face only one top-tier team in

that time, closing the stretch against the Los Angeles Clippers at

home on Jan. 18.

They don’t play consecutive road games until a five-game swing

that begins Jan. 20.

The Nets (10-19) didn’t enjoy a holiday break like the Pacers

did, following Monday’s defeat with an ugly 95-78 home loss to

Chicago on Christmas Day that extended their skid to four games.

However, Brooklyn ended that slump Friday night with a 104-93 home

win over NBA-worst Milwaukee.

Shaun Livingston scored 20 points, Mirza Teletovic added 19 and

Pierce had 13 for the Nets, who used their 13th starting lineup

this season. Having Livingston on the floor gave Brooklyn an

additional ball handler besides starting point guard Deron

Williams.

“We’ll see how it goes (Saturday), but I thought those two

played extremely well together,” coach Jason Kidd said.

The Nets are opening a tough three-game trip that also features

matchups at San Antonio on New Year’s Eve and Oklahoma City on

Thursday.

“This is about as tough as it’s going to get as far as a

three-game road trip,” said Pierce.

Indiana’s first win over Brooklyn this season ended a four-game

losing streak against the franchise that began with the last

meeting on March 28, 2012 when the Nets were still in New Jersey.

The Pacers had won 10 straight against them prior to that.