The Pacers have the third best record in the Eastern Conference at 31-21, along with one of the toughest defenses in the league. The Bobcats beat the Pacers in the season opener, but have lost two straight to them since. Wednesday will be the final meeting of the season between the two teams.
The return of Byron Mullens has brought a spark to the Bobcats frontcourt. Mullens 25 points, 18 rebound night against the Celtics was one of his best all-around games as a Bobcat.
Since coming back from an ankle injury that sidelined him for more than a month, Mullens has scored double figures in five straight games. In this stretch Mullens is averaging 17.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and shooting 46% from the field.
He’s also shooting 44% from three. It’s the best stretch of the season for the former Ohio State Buckeye, and the Bobcats are gaining a little more balance because of it. Aside from the blowout loss in Cleveland, the Bobcats have been very competitive in each game since Mullens return.
Some of those games might have been wins if Kemba Walker wasn’t going through a midseason slump. Walker is averaging just 15 points and shooting below 40% in his last ten games. In his last five, he’s just over 11 points and shooting 36% from the field. Needless to say the Bobcats need Walker, especially for games like tonight where scoring is going to be difficult agains a quality NBA defense.
The Pacers lead the league in opponents points per game, defensive rating and opponents field goal %. They are also one of the top rebounding teams in the league and a strong, physical team. The Pacers have a style of play that translates strongly to the postseason. Paul George and David West are having good seasons, and the team has done a good job holding down the fort without leading scorer Danny Granger. While the Pacers defense and rebounding is elite, the team struggles taking care of the ball. The Bobcats aren’t usually good at forcing turnovers, but if there’s one focus of the defense tonight, that should be it.
The last time these teams met, the Pacers ran over the Bobcats with a 103-76 victory in Charlotte. Hopefully tonight is a different story and the recent play of Byron Mullens can give the team a lot more energy and scoring options.