Opponent: Charlotte Hornets
Starting Lineup: Terry Rozier-Dwayne Bacon-Miles Bridges-P.J. Washington-Cody Zeller
Second-Unit: Devonte Graham-Malik Monk-Marvin Williams-Bismack Biyombo
Leading Scorer: Rozier (16 PPG)
Leading Rebounder: Zeller (12.4 RPG)
Leading Assists: Graham (6.8 APG)
Biggest Challenge: Injuries/Fatigue
Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis are both listed as questionable entering tonight’s action. It will go a long way for the Indiana Pacers if at least one of them can play. Goga Bitadze is just 19-years old and shouldn’t be getting heavy minutes like this night in and night out. T.J. Leaf and Jakarr Sampson aren’t used to this much playing time. The addition of just one or both of Turner and Sabonis will ease the pressure off those young guys and counter Zeller, who is having a good year for the Hornets. However, it could be a big problem if neither of them play.
Biggest Advantage: Scoring threats
The Hornets are one of those teams where you look up and down their roster and think, “Where do they get enough scoring to win any games?” That hasn’t necessarily been an issue to start the season, as they have won 50% of their games, but it’s going to catch up with them. Rozier can score, but he doesn’t do it efficiently and shouldn’t be any team’s first option. Bridges, Bacon and Graham have potential, but scoring isn’t necessarily any of their best attributes. Washington might be their best scorer by the end of the season, but he is just a rookie. If Indiana plays sound defense and stays just slightly efficient themselves offensively, they have more scorers in Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren to simply outscore the Hornets.
The X-Factor: T.J. McConnell/Aaron Holiday
Graham has been arguably the biggest surprise of the year for the Hornets. The Hornets have had little to no production from their bench the past few years, and it looked to be that way entering this year again. But Graham has turned into one of the best point guards in the league, and he even closes games in place of Rozier sometimes. However, outside of Graham, their bench is weak, so limiting his production will halt Charlotte’s offense for long stretches. Are McConnell and Holiday up for that challenge?
The Hornets may be 3-3, but they are still one of the worst teams in the league. Many pegged them to be the absolute worst, but the surprising production form Graham and Washington will probably prevent them from finishing at the very bottom. The Hornets have some size on the wing with Bridges, Washington and Bacon, which might make plying small tougher for this matchup. The biggest thing for Pacers fans to watch for entering this game is the injury report. If Sabonis or Turner plays, then the Pacers should be in the driver’s seat for a win. If not? It could be anybody’s ball game.