Pacers-Rockets Preview

The Houston Rockets had one of their worst defensive showings of the season their last time out. Compounding the problem, James Harden couldn’t find his shot.

It’s highly unlikely they’ll have as much trouble defensively in the finale of a three-game homestand.

Harden looks to get back on track Monday when the Rockets face an Indiana Pacers team coming off one of the worst offensive performances in franchise history.

After opening its homestand with an impressive 112-101 win over Oklahoma City on Thursday, Houston (28-13) couldn’t slow down high-powered Golden State two nights later in a 131-106 loss. The Rockets allowed their most points in more than a year and an opponent season-high 54.9 percent shooting.

"We just did not play hard on both ends of the court," Houston’s Trevor Ariza said. "We didn’t do what we needed to do. We didn’t do nowhere near enough to win. If we want to be a good team, we got to give a tremendous effort every time we step on the court."

Although Houston is known more for its offense – it’s averaged 109.6 points in a 6-3 stretch – the Rockets probably won’t have the same issues defensively against Indiana (15-27).

Scoring has been an obstacle all season for the Pacers and they’re in the midst of an especially rough stretch, averaging 90.0 points and 22.7 percent shooting from 3-point range during a four-game losing streak.

Playing a Charlotte team missing leading scorers Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson, Indiana committed a season-high 20 turnovers, went 2 of 21 from beyond the arc and had 68 points at the end of regulation in Saturday’s 80-71 overtime loss. The Pacers scored 11 in the third quarter – their fewest for any period this season – and went 1 of 10 in OT to finish with their lowest point total in an overtime game in franchise history.

"We’re turning the ball over too much," forward David West said. "We’re just not sound in those moments. We’re not able to get the ball where it needs to be or get guys clean looks. We just have to figure it out. We have to be better."

C.J. Miles, Indiana’s top scorer among qualifying players, has scored six or fewer three times during the skid. Miles’ 12.0 points per game is the lowest for any team leader.

George Hill, who’s averaged 14.2 points in five games this season, is close to returning from a nine-game absence due to a strained groin.

Harden leads the league with 26.6 points per game but struggled mightily against the Warriors. He was limited to 12 points and shot 4 of 15 after reaching the 30-point mark in three of his previous four contests.

Harden was 0 for 4 on 3-point attempts – the first time in 25 games he failed to hit a 3.

"We got to be able to withstand an off-shooting night by James once in a while because it’s going to happen," coach Kevin McHale said.

Harden struggled in a 114-81 loss at Indiana on Dec. 20, 2013, finishing with 12 points and going 3 of 14. The Rockets avenged that blowout with one of their own in Houston on March 7, with Harden scoring a game-high 28 points and hitting 10 of 17 shots in a 112-86 victory.

The Rockets are 5-2 at home against the Eastern Conference, with the losses coming against the East’s top two teams in Atlanta and Washington.

The Pacers have dropped eight of 10 on the road against the West.