Owners of the Eastern Conference’s best record, the Indiana
Pacers are about to get even stronger.
Former All-Star Danny Granger is set to make his season debut
Friday night as the Pacers host the Houston Rockets.
After missing nearly all of 2012-13 with a knee injury, Granger
has been working his way back from a strained left calf.
“I’m excited to finally be able to play. … I feel ready now,”
said Granger, averaging 18.1 points over the course of his career.
“This is my (ninth) year, I’ve played a lot of basketball games.
I’m happy to finally be playing this season, I’m definitely
While Granger is only expected to see about 15-20 minutes in
this game, he could take on a bigger role as the season
“Having Danny back on the floor with me, it will be special,”
said forward Paul George, who’s emerged as one of the NBA’s best
players during Granger’s absence. “It’s like having your big
brother back out there.”
George, averaging a team-best 23.8 points, dismissed the notion
that he and Granger won’t be able to play together.
“It’s time to move beyond that,” George said. “It’s bigger than
that. What we got going here is special.”
Indiana (20-5) is coming off its first set of back-to-back
losses, falling 101-96 to Detroit on Monday and 97-94 at Miami on
Wednesday. The Pacers led by as many as 15 in the third quarter
against the Heat but were outscored 12-2 over the final 3:09.
“We lost the game to an elite team,” said George, who scored 18
of his 25 points in the second half. “Teams are going to play their
best games against us, and it’s just something that we haven’t been
used to. It’s nothing that we can’t get better at, it’s nothing
that we’re not ready for, it’s just now we have that
The Pacers will try to bounce back against the Rockets (17-9),
who have dropped three straight in the series. Houston, though, has
gone 8-1 against the East this season, with its only loss coming
123-117 in overtime at Philadelphia on Nov. 13 with leading scorer
James Harden sidelined.
The Rockets have won four of six after cruising to a 109-94
victory over Chicago on Wednesday. Dwight Howard led the way with
23 points while Harden and Chandler Parsons scored 19 apiece.
“We’re having some early success, but we’re not happy with where
we’re at,” Howard said. “We want to continue to get better. We
don’t want to get satisfied.”
Houston outscored the Bulls 66-40 in the paint and closed the
third quarter with a 15-1 run.
“That was tremendous,” said Harden, averaging 24.4 points.
“We’ve been striking out these last couple of games in closing
quarters and (coach Kevin McHale) has been preaching to us to make
sure we go on a little run to close every quarter out. Tonight we
did it and we’ve got to be consistent with that.”
Jeremy Lin returned to practice Thursday, but it’s unclear if he
will be available after missing the last two games with a back
Disgruntled big man Omer Asik (thigh, knee) may also be getting
close. Asik, who won’t be traded despite recent rumors, is expected
to play when healthy.
“It’s going to take a total team effort for us to win a
championship,” Howard told the team’s official website. “I know
he’s had a tough time, but the only thing we can do as a team is
continue to lift him up and to just try to help him understand that
he’s a big part of this team. I know he might not feel that way,
but he is.”