Can Warriors pick up rare road win in Indianapolis?
The Pacers own the NBA's best defense and haven't lost to the Warriors at home since Feb. 5, 2007. (USATSI)
KEYS TO THE GAME
1) Cherish the ball. The Pacers excel at forcing turnovers and the Warriors are prone to committing them.
2) Clean the glass. The Warriors are second in overall rebounding, but the fourth-ranked Pacers are better at outrebounding their opponents.
3) Spread 'em out. The Pacers like to physically punish opponents, so space the floor and make the scramble.
Programming note: Warriors-Pacers coverage tips off Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territory restrictions apply)
The Warriors have solved Miami, having defeated the defending champs on their last two trips to South Beach. And they've conquered Memphis, snapping an 11-game losing streak there in December.
They'll enter another traditional house of horrors on Tuesday, when they face the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Warriors (36-24) haven't won there in more than seven years, and they usually don't come close. The Pacers typically sprint to fast starts and cruise to victory; they've averaged 31.2 first-quarter points against the Warriors in the last five meetings in Indianapolis.
The Pacers, by the way, have never been as good as they have been this season. At 46-13, they own the best record in the NBA – and the No. 1 defense.
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It's quite the challenge for a Warriors team coming off a loss to the Raptors in Toronto on Sunday. Having split the first four games of the six-game road trip, they must beat the Pacers and win at Boston on Wednesday to achieve a winning record.
“Two and oh, that’s the only thing we can worry about at this point – 2-0,” Stephen Curry said after the loss at Toronto. “(If we) go 4-2 on the trip and we’re good. That’s the mission. Obviously Indiana is a tough place to win a game and so is Boston.
“We've got our work cut out for us but we’re committed to that task.”
The Warriors have to take their cues from Curry, who can expect to be the focus of the Indy defense. The Pacers raced out to a 13-point halftime lead, holding Curry to 7 points in the first 24 minutes, in a 102-94 win on Jan. 20 at Oracle Arena.
Curry's approach surely is the key. The Warriors are 15-5 when he has 10 or more assists, 21-16 when he does not. They are 10-11 when he takes more than 20 shots, 26-10 when he takes fewer than 20.
If statistics are an indicator, the Warriors might be better off letting Curry distribute.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Iguodala vs. George. It's a steep challenge for Andre, who always draws the strongest wing scorer. George is a terrific two-way player on the verge of superstardom, so it's a victory if Iguodala can score half as many points.
Bogut vs. Hibbert. Two behemoths, both comfortable in the shadow of the rim, will try to keep drivers out. Hibbert is third in blocks, Bogut seventh. Bogut is the better rebounder, but the man who best discourages opposing shooters wins the battle.
Thompson vs. Stephenson. Klay likes to hang out on the perimeter, while Lance prefers to roam the court. Stephenson leads the NBA in triple-doubles (four), so Klay will have to stay in front of him on defense and block him out on offense.
Lee vs. West. Both are good on the pick-and-roll, but Lee is the craftier inside scorer. Lee can't match West's physicality, so he'll have to draw him out. To do that, Lee will need to do better than his season-average 31 percent on the midrange jumper.
INJURY REPORT: For the Warriors, C Festus Ezeli (right knee surgery) is out.
For the Pacers, G George Hill (bruised left shoulder) is listed as day to day.
ROSTER NOTE: G Nemanja Nedovic and C Ognjen Kuzmic are on assignment with the Santa Cruz Warriors.
LAST 10: Warriors 6-4, Pacers 7-3.
SERIES HISTORY: The Warriors took a 102-94 loss on Jan. 20 in Oakland and have lost 23 of their last 29 games in Indianapolis, the last victory there coming on Feb. 5, 2007. The Warriors' last series sweep over the Pacers came in 2000-01.