Opponent: Brooklyn Nets
Starting Lineup: Kyrie Irving-Garrett Temple-Joe Harris-Taurean Prince-Jarrett Allen
Second Unit: Spencer Dinwiddie-Iman Shumpert-David Nwaba-Rodions Kurucs-DeAndre Jordan
Leading Scorer: Irving (28.5 PPG)
Leading Rebounder: Jordan (10.2 RPG)
Leading Assists: Irving (7.2 APG)
Biggest Challenge: Playing without Malcolm Brogdon
The Indiana Pacers are riddled with injuries, but nobody’s injury has a bigger impact on the team right now than Brogdon. He’s the engine that steers the ship. Without Brogdon in the lineup, the team lacks playmakers. Aaron Holiday will be the primary playmaker, and he’s still young and working through quirks and plays much better alongside Brogdon. Jeremy Lamb and T.J. McConnell could have helped in this area, but they are out as well. This game could be a sluggish offensive performance from Indiana.
Biggest Advantage: Domantas Sabonis
It was the Sabonis show last time these two teams met, and it needs to be that way again if the Pacers want a chance to win. He finished the game with 29 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Jordan looked his age trying to guard Sabonis, and Allen didn’t have the muscle to stop him down low. The Nets will surely key on him and double him in the post as much as they can, but that should open some playmaking and assists opportunities for him, which the team will surely need without Brogdon.
The X-Factor: Doug McDermott
With the injuries the team is facing, there is little to no offensive threats in the second unit. McDermott is the only exception. He has shown some playmaking improvements this year off the bench when he’s been forced into a primary playmaking role, and he is still hitting the outside shot at a great clip (42.3%). If the Pacers are going to get any offensive production from their second unit, it’s going to have to come from McDermott. We’ll see if he is capable tonight.
The Nets have not been as good this year as many predicted prior to the season beginning. Irving has lived up to the hype and is a scoring/playmaking machine, but it feels like a lot of their role players have taken a step back this year (Dinwiddie, Allen, Harris, etc.). Still, this is the Nets game to lose with the amount of injuries the Pacers have. However, Sabonis, and maybe even Myles Turner, should be very effective. If they can register good performances, they might be able to keep the game in reach.