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Preview: The Indiana Pacers and a tale of Two Playing Styles

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The Pacers like to play slow and grind. The Warriors don't. Who wins this matchup in Oracle?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors (27-5) vs. Indiana Pacers (14-22)

Oracle Arena - Oakland, CA

7:30 p.m. PST

TV: CSN BA (local) | Radio: KNBR 680

Buddy blog: Indy Cornrows

The Indiana Pacers have had horrible luck over the last 6 months. In the summer, they lost their franchise player Paul George to a horrible injury in a practice game of all places preparing with Team USA. (We could use this time to discuss players putting themselves in risk by adding extra games to their season while playing for USA, or the distance behind the basket to partitions, but let's save that for another time and place.) It was a freak accident, and it left Indiana without its franchise face. It wasn't long ago -- only last May! -- that the Pacers were playing competitive playoff games with the big boys in the East, but this year the team has found itself in a rebuilding year.

After losing an offseason bidding war with Charlotte for the services of Indiana's former Swiss Army knife Lance Stephenson, it has been tough to see the Pacers as a competitive team this year. Many called for the team to all-out tank, even going as far as to call for a trade of serviceable veterans like David West for draft picks to retool around the returning Paul George next season. Give credit to Pacers Head Coach, Frank Vogel (a fantastic gritty coach), who has tried his best to focus a group of mismatched blue collar talent into trying to grind defensively a la the Grizzlies to keep themselves competitive.

Vogel's Pacers come to Oracle Wednesday night with a clear playing style - grind on defense, wear your opponent down, and hope to scratch out more points than you. They currently hold opponents to the lowest PPG in the league at 96.1 per game, and even sport the league's #5 Defensive Rating. Roy Hibbert, Solomon Hill, West, Rodney Stuckey and former Warrior and Bay Area-fan-favorite CJ Watson make up a starting 5 that beat you up, push you around, and force their will on you.

The Indiana offense, however, is where the stats start to make you cringe. They score at a bottom-5 rate per game, and consistently shoot the ball horribly (.431% as a team, 27th in the league) and can't shoot from long range very well (.344% as a team, 20th in the league). Their 14-22 record is constructed of large losses to fast-paced teams -- including twice to Phoenix by over 20 points each. However, they are looking to find a groove, currently 2-1 on a West Coast road trip that most recently saw them holding on in a win over the Jazz after almost blowing a large 4th quarter lead. They do have 8 players that average double-digit points per game, led by George Hill -- who, unfortunately, is out with a groin injury. Hibbert and David West are mirror images of each other, both averaging close to 12 ppg and bringing in 7 rebounds. It's a balanced attack with no clear superstar.

Can Indiana keep up with the Warriors? Our home squad is coming off a large win against the Thunder where Steph and crew forced their will and playing style on a Thunder team usually known for high scoring, all-star performances and playoff-caliber ball. As Indiana forces their opponents to slow down, the Warriors force teams into bad shots, bad passes and bad decisions with length, matchup problems and anticipation. Golden State was able to keep OKC on their toes by pushing the pace, create open shots, and pass circles around a typically large interior defense with Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams.

Lets face it - the Warriors are playing their best basketball of the year. Coming off the big win over the Thunder on Monday, they have extended their home winning streak to 12 games. They are punishing great teams, even with Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli out. They counter big teams like Indiana by running them out of the gym, pushing missed baskets in to fast breaks where they have become experts at finishing. Yes, Indiana will try to slow them into the half court game, but Indiana's lack of athleticism is a tough match up for Steph, Klay and crew.

Keys for the game

  • Don't let Indiana slow you down - the Pacers want to keep the pace slow and steady. Run their big men off the court, keep the pressure on a team finishing up a road trip.
  • Avoid the Trap Game - Never forget random games like this last year against underperforming East teams. Trap games are always present, with a relaxed Warriors squad underestimating a visiting team and forgetting to score enough points to win. Get an early lead and make this a laugher
  • Blowouts = less minutes for the starters - Looking at the schedule next week, there is a big road trip coming up through Houston and OKC. It would be great to limit the minutes for the starters tonight with a sizable second half lead. Avoid injuries and over work by playing a clean game and taking care of business.

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Predictions

  • Warriors show Indiana how far they have come, extend the home winning streak tonight with a sizable win 122-95. This one is over by the 3rd, and we see the bench emptied.