Both sides have extremely talented rosters and have shooters who have started the season on the front foot. Across the court there will be key battles that could decide the outcome of the clash.
Fixture: Houston Rockets vs Indiana Pacers - NBA Season 2020-21
Date & Time: Wednesday, January 6th, 2021 - 7:00 PM ET (Thursday, January 7th, 2021 - 5:30 AM)
Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN.
Houston Rockets Preview
Given the turbulent off-season the Houston Rockets had, fans would be forgiven if they have misgivings about how the 2020-21 season could pan out. After a delayed start to their campaign owing to a spate of COVID-19 cases, the Rockets have had a disappointing start with a 2-3 record.
Starting the season in the Western Conference against tough opposition in the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets, the Rockets dropped both games. However, after their new arrivals, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, and starter PJ Tucker started, the Houston Rockets picked off the Sacramento Kings in back-to-back games.
With the amount of new additions made during the off-season, the Houston Rockets were likely to start the season slowly. However, John Wall has come back from an injury and returned to his All-Star best, James Harden is scoring for fun despite not having a traditional pre-season, and Christian Wood has emerged as a breakout talent for the Rockets.
That could make them a tough proposition for the Indiana Pacers.
Key Player - James Harden
James Harden was one of the main talking points of the NBA off-season. Although he missed the beginning of the Houston Rockets' training camp and requested a trade from the franchise, he has shown that he is still one of the NBA's elite scorers.
A lot of talk has circulated surrounding player-power regarding the 'hold' that Harden seemingly has over the Houston Rockets front office. When Harden plays, he does so like an MVP. That makes him undroppable despite his flirtations with the NBA's COVID-19 rules prior to the season's start.
So far this season, James Harden has averaged a league-leading 33 points and 10.8 assists per game. However, the Houston Rockets are yet to gel as a side considering their spate of new arrivals and Harden's late return to the team.
If the Rockets are to have any chance of succeeding in a stacked West this year, Harden will have to once again be among the league's leading scorers.
Houston Rockets' Predicted Lineup
G John Wall, G James Harden, F P. J. Tucker, F David Nwaba, C Christian Wood.
Indiana Pacers Preview
The Indiana Pacers have lived up to expectations in the NBA this season. Heading into week 3, the franchise are 5-2 and have the seventh best defensive rating in the league. On their day, the Pacers have one of the strongest starting sides in the NBA but have struggled through injuries in past seasons, which has hampered their progression in the East.
This year they are proving that with a healthy roster, they are capable of challenging at the top. Besides, the Indiana Pacers have multiple offensive assets that can hurt opponents; scorers Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis have up strong numbers this season.
The Pacers have had an 'easier' beginning than many. as they have faced the Knicks twice and the Bulls and the Cavs once apiece. Therefore, how their season pans out could only be accurately gauged by the outcome of stiffer tests such as this matchup against the Houston Rockets.
Key Player - Malcolm Brogdon
As already mentioned, several Indiana Pacers' stars have starred for the franchise this season but none more so than 5th-year guard Malcolm Brogdon who scored the game-winner against the New Orleans Pelicans.
After impressing in Milwaukee for three seasons, Brogdon's numbers have only improved since moving to the Indiana Pacers.
In Indiana, Brogdon has vastly improved his scoring and playmaking. This season, the point guard is averaging 22 points and seven assists per game. The 28-year old has also played his part in the Pacers' strong defensive start by picking up 1.9 steals per game.
Indiana Pacers' Predicted Lineup
G Victor Oladipo, G Malcolm Brogdon, F Domantas Sabonis, F Aaron Holiday, C Myles Turner.
Houston Rockets vs Indiana Pacers Match Prediction
Both the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers are arguably top-four teams in their respective conferences.
There will be several exciting matchups across the floor including the one between the two side's young centers, Christian Wood and Myles Turner. Both players are elite rim protectors, who have averaged two and 3.6 blocks per game respectively so far this season.
The two teams also have serial scorers, therefore the outcome of this game could depend largely on which side exhibits the more robust defense. The Houston Rockets have struggled to click so far at the defensive end and have been relying on their scoring might.
This game ought to be an extremely tight affair; however, with home-court advantage, the Pacers may just edge it.
Where to watch Houston Rockets vs Indiana Pacers?
For viewers in the USA, the matchup will be broadcast on AT&T Southwest and FoxSports Indiana. International fans can stream the game live with an NBA League Pass.Published 06 Jan 2021, 00:20 IST