PREVIEW: Rockets at Pacers- March 9

Mar 6, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) reacts to a call in the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Rockets at Pacers- March 9

The Rockets will be without Kevin Porter Jr. when they visit the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night. A left thigh contusion will keep the Rockets’ point guard off the floor after he had played the previous four games following a left toe injury that kept him out of the lineup for 20 games.

Eye on the Pacers

Record: 29-37 (12th in Eastern Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 113.4 (18th)

Defensive rating (rank): 116.1 (26th)

The Pacers have recovered from losing 16-of-18 soon after the calendar turned to 2023 and enter Thursday’s game having won 4-of-7 following Monday’s loss against Philadelphia and are just two games back of Washington for the East’s final play-in spot. All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton is averaging a team-best 20.6 points and 10.3 assists, but the Pacers are just 2-11 in games he’s missed, including a 1-9 stretch during the Pacers’ winter slide. Indiana has gotten a big rookie campaign from sixth overall pick Bennedict Mathurin, who is scoring 17 points per game off the bench.

Matchup to watch: Rockets offensive rebounding vs. Pacers defensive rebounding

There are very few nights where the Rockets enter a game with a distinct advantage in one aspect of it, but this is one of those nights. The Rockets are the NBA’s best offensive rebounding team, while the Pacers are the league’s worst on the defensive glass, but Indiana won this battle when they beat the Rockets at Toyota Center in November. They held the Rockets to 14-second chance points on a 24% offensive rebound rate, down from their season average of 17-second chance points and a 34% offensive rebound rate. Indiana held the Rockets to 91 points on that night as they were held to just 34%, and they only hit the 90-point mark because they attempted 32 free throws.

What I’m watching for

Jalen Green is averaging 28 points on 50% shooting over his last two games, but those were played inside the friendly confines of Toyota Center. On Thursday, the Rockets guard will have to take his show on the road, where he has really struggled. Green is scoring 24 points on 45.5% shooting at home this season, but those numbers drop to 19.5 points on 37% shooting.

“I’ve been terrible on the road,” Green said. “I gotta get better at playing on the road. I’ve noticed that about my game. That’s something I can build into and get better at. I don’t know what it be. Maybe the flight, just the atmosphere in the other arenas. I don’t know; it’s just different. I love being home.”

Rockets head coach Stephen Silas compared Green’s road struggles to those of Kemba Walker when he first entered the league a decade ago, and he believes the best way to fix the problem is to find a consistent routine.

“The routine is everything,” Silas said. “You’ll find that the older guys have a road routine that they do on a daily basis, and their home routine is very similar.”

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