Opponent: Brooklyn Nets
Starting Lineup: Kyrie Irving-Joe Harris-Caris Levert-Taurean Prince-DeAndre Jordan
Second Unit: Spencer Dinwiddie-Garrett Temple-David Nwaba-Rodions Kurucs-Jarrett Allen
Leading Scorer: Irving (37.7 PPG)
Leading Rebounder: Allen (11 RPG)
Leading Assists: Irving (6.3 PPG)
Biggest Challenge: Irving pick-and-rolls
The Indiana Pacers adjusted well to the Derrick Rose pick-and-roll by having the big sag off and force Rose into long jumpers. He wasn’t nearly as effective in game 2 because of it. But the Pacers can’t do that with Irving, who shoots the pull-up three at an efficient clip. How Indiana adjusts to a better shooting pick-and-roll ball handler will have a big impact on this game.
Biggest Advantage: Prince guarding big
The Nets roll with a small-ball starting lineup with Prince as their power forward, who is naturally a small forward. In an ideal world, one of Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner should be able to feast on Prince in the post, but as we’ve seen in the past, that isn’t always the case. Allen/Jordan will likely guard Sabonis with Prince/Kurucs guarding Turner. That’s a big size advantage for Turner over the 6’8’’ Prince. It’ll show a lot of improvement if he is able to take advantage of it.
The X-Factor: Transition defense
With the advantages that come with Prince playing power forward, there also comes a big question mark with transition defense. The Turner-Sabonis pairing has struggled already to defend in transition, let alone with a team like the Nets who likes to get out and run with their small-ball lineups. Can the Pacers stop Brooklyn’s transition offense? That will go a long way to getting a win.
The Nets are probably better than their 1-2 record indicates. Despite signing two max free agents in Irving and Kevin Durant, they maintained a decent amount of their depth that got them the 6th seed in last year’s playoffs. Offensively, everything runs through Irving with Levert serving as a secondary playmaker. Dinwiddie is a strong playmaker off the bench, who might be tough to deal with because Edmond Sumner is out with a hand injury. Jordan and Allen will split time at center, despite Allen being the more active big man. Prince, Harris and Temple are solid 3&D wings. Stopping Irving in the pick-and-roll and transition defense are the biggest tasks for the Pacers defense, while Turner’s production over a smaller power forward will be the biggest thing to look at offensively.