INDIANA PACERS (22-5)
at BROOKLYN NETS (9-17)
Tip-off: Monday, 7:35 p.m. ET
Line: Indiana -6, Total: 193
The Pacers look for their third straight victory on Monday night when they visit the reeling Nets.
Since a narrow 97-94 defeat in Miami, Indiana has destroyed its past two opponents, beating Houston by 33 points (114-81) and Boston by 27 points (106-79). Brooklyn has not only lost three of its past four games, most recently falling in Philadelphia on Friday in overtime by a 121-120 score, but the team also lost starting C Brook Lopez for the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his foot. These teams last met on Nov. 9, when the favored Pacers won and covered at Barclays Center, 96-91. Over the past three seasons, these teams have split eight games (4-4 SU), but the Nets are 6-2 ATS. Brooklyn is 36-16 ATS (69%) in home game after a game with 30+ assists since 1996, while Indiana is 4-15 ATS (21%) in road games after two straight blowout wins by 15+ points in that same timeframe. However, the Pacers are 9-1 ATS as a favorite of 3.5 to 9.5 points this season, and 22-10 ATS (69%) off a double-digit home win over the past two seasons.
Can the Pacers win a third straight blowout? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The five experts are absolutely sizzling on NBA Best Bets in December, going 67% ATS (47-23) including 21-2 ATS (91%) since Dec. 16. During the month, StatFox Zach has an astronomical 93% ATS mark (13-1) and is currently 62% ATS (24-15) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave has an excellent 81% ATS (13-3) Best Bets record in December and is 58% ATS (23-17) on Best Bets for the season. Since Dec. 16, StatFox Gary is 4-0 ATS, while both StatFox Brian and StatFox Scott are 3-1 ATS
During its two-game win streak, Indiana has outshot its opponents 51.2% FG to 38.1% FG. The club hasn't been great offensively with just 98.5 PPG (20th in NBA), but still boasts the league's best scoring defense at 89.5 PPG and best FG Pct. defense at 41.2% FG allowed. After going through a bit of a slump, SF Paul George (23.9 PPG, 41% threes, 5.9 RPG) now has 24+ points in each of his past three games, making 9-of-13 shots in Sunday's win over the Celtics. SG Lance Stephenson (13.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.1 APG) finished that game with a triple-double of 12 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds, and is averaging 16.8 PPG, 8.6 RPG and 6.2 APG in the past five games. SF Danny Granger understandably struggled in his season debut on Friday (5 points on 1-of-7 FG) after such a long layoff, but found his groove on Sunday with 12 points (4-of-5 threes) and five rebounds in 25 minutes of play. If he can score points off the bench, the Pacers will be even tougher to beat than they were early in the season. C Roy Hibbert (12.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.8 BPG) snapped out of a three-game funk of scoring in single-digits with 15 points and 12 rebounds to go along with three blocks against Boston. He should be able to dominate the Nets, who will be without C Brook Lopez. However, PF David West (13.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG) has just 20 points total in his past two games and will need to score more for the Pacers to have extended success. George (24 points, 6 rebounds), Stephenson (15 points, 7 assists), Hibbert (15 points, 11 rebounds) and West (18 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals) all performed at a high level in the five-point win in Brooklyn on Nov. 9.
Although the Nets have lost two straight games, the offense has been clicking with 119.0 PPG on 54.0% FG in the past three contests. This is quite an improvement from their 98.1 PPG (21st in NBA) on 45.0% FG (14th in league) for the season. But the defense continues to struggle, allowing 102.5 PPG (25th in NBA) on 45.6% FG (19th in league). And the loss of C Brook Lopez (20.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 BPG) makes a poor rebounding team (40.6 RPG, 3rd-worst in NBA) even weaker. One positive for Brooklyn is that SF Paul Pierce (13.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG) seems to finally be finding his groove. Over the past two games, Pierce is averaging 25.5 PPG. In Friday's overtime loss to Philadelphia, Alan Anderson led the team in scoring with 26 points as SG Joe Johnson (16.5 PPG) missed the game for personal reasons. Johnson should return to the starting lineup on Monday night. PF Mirza Teletovic (6.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG) didn't even play in last month's loss to Indiana, but had 18 points and four rebounds on Friday. PG Deron Williams (12.7 PPG, 7.6 APG) posted his third straight double-double in the loss the Sixers with 17 points and 14 assists, but he also committed six turnovers. He remains the most important player for Brooklyn, especially in this game where he must completely dominate his matchup with George Hill, who is by far the Pacers’ weakest player in their starting lineup. In roughly the same amount of minutes in the Nov. 9 meeting, Williams had 17 points and 10 assists, while Hill tallied just six points (1-of-6 FG) and seven assists. PF Kevin Garnett (6.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG) sat out Friday's game, but will need to play well to help make up for the absence of Lopez. In last month's meeting with Indiana's great interior duo of Roy Hibbert and David West, Garnett had six points, eight rebounds and three steals, but also posted a dreadful minus-14 rating.