At the start of the season, I mentioned there would be times during the season when the Pacers played like champs, contenders or pretenders. After spending the first couple of months on a championship level, the expected fluctuation has been in effect over the past couple of months. And the past couple of weeks the play has bounced between contender and pretender throughout the four quarters of single games.
Against the Rockets on Friday night, the Pacers will have to fluctuate between contender and championship caliber play to gut out a win on the road. Houston has to be licking their chops to get a crack at the Pacers who appear to be limping into town. Actually, some of the Pacers are actually limping, with C.J. Watson out due to an elbow, George Hill dealing with a shoulder and Paul George still feeling the effects of a hard fall on his back against the Jazz last Sunday.
PG will need that back to remain loose so he can do his thing on defense against the Rockets.
The Pacers are 3-0 against the Houston since James Harden joined the team last season. Defense has dominated those games and in particular, PG has dominated Harden, making the Houston star appear to quit and move on to the next game.
Every time to two players match up, I always figure Harden is due for an outburst against PG, but it has yet to happen. Once again, the situation appears to favor Harden, but that may be just the challenge PG needs to light a fire under his game. George certainly was up to the defensive task on Tuesday night when he wiped Steph Curry off the floor in the fourth quarter.
After a frustrating 48 hours, PG should be amped up to see Harden. The pair have faced each other four times when PG has been the main player guarding Harden. This dates back to the one game the Pacers played against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 lockout season when Harden logged 35 minutes off the bench.
In those four previous matchups, Harden averaged just over 15 points per game while shooting a combined 15-62 (24%) from the field. And that wasn't just one bad shooting night. the four games break out like this, 3-14 (12pts), 6-24 (22pts), 5-19 (17pts) and 1-5 (10 pts). Harden also has 18 turnovers in the four games (5,3,5,5).
No big time scorer in the league has been ravaged by "PG Disease" more than Harden. The Rockets lethal weapon on the wing remains due to have his way with PG and he certainly has better options around him now as they prepare to face the Pacers tonight.
Considering Dwight Howard inside and Chandler Parsons outside along with a point guard in Patrick Beverly who is playing well, if Harden can't get it going tonight he may never break through against PG.
As for the Pacers, they need the infliction of PG Disease to continue.