The Big Picture: The Indiana Pacers are one of those annoying teams that won't win the championship this year, but do enough things well to beat anyone on any given night, similar to the level the Bobcats played last season.
Also, the sound guy at Conseco Fieldhouse plays an infernal loop of Indy cars zipping by, hands down the most annoying sound effect in the league. And they have Tyler Hansbrough, whose wild facial expressions and flailing at any contact lead to an unusually high number of foul calls, annoying anyone who wants fouls called the same way on everyone. And they have Josh McRoberts, who, annoyingly, got chance after chance even though he couldn't be bothered to play particularly well until he turned 23, while guys like Rod Benson and Mike Gansey never get that chance. And they have Danny Granger, who annoys me because every single team picking between 7th and 16th in the 2005 draft totally whiffed on him, even though the rest of the world was wondering why the hell he kept dropping. Annoying.
But most of that is because they're not on my team, and I'd probably be gleeful to have those guys on my team. Granger's career speaks for itself, McRoberts is finally cashing in the potential that so many scouts saw in him his senior year of high school (it's a fragile process, but it's happening), and Hansbrough's vertigo issues have obscured that when he puts it all together, he rebounds well and he gets to the line a ton, basically his calling cards in college.
And that's before pointing out that Brandon Rush has settled in as a wing shooter*, Darren Collison is a point guard that Jim O`Brien trusts, and Roy Hibbert is developing into Tim Duncan's Big Fundamental spiritual heir, though it's hardly a knock on Dr. Hibbert that he will probably never produce up to Duncan's level.
*Amazing fact: Rush shoots 40% from three for his career, and 65% on free throws. 65%! I think I shoot 65%, and I'm some schmuck who never played past 8th grade and is a devoted Rick Barry-style underhand free throw shooter.
The Bobcats, for their part, will likely be without Tyrus Thomas, which means that "2/3" Dominic McGuire will probably play the bulk of the reserve minutes at power forward, and crunch time alongside Boris Diaw, while Shaun Livingston will likely play alongside D.J. Augustin when either Stephen Jackson or Gerald Wallace needs a break. (/bitterness)
Musical Interlude: K'Naan -- "ABC's"**
**Awesome song, but is it the most inappropriate Madden soundtrack choice, ever?
Key to Victory: Indiana shoots lots of threes. In fact, they take the second-most number of threes per game in the league, behind New York. If it feels like Charlotte has been battered by threes this season, that's because teams are taking more threes against us than against any other team. Interestingly, though, we're actually 14th in the league in defensive 3P%. So, it's not so much the efficiency as the volume that's killing us.
I don't know why teams are taking more threes against us than anyone else, especially since our centers are so poor on the defensive end. I'm guessing there are several possibilities, starting with small sample size theater, the notion that it's just a coincidence and not a concerted strategy by our opponents. Or it could be that the Cats concede three-point attempts in an attempt to sag back and protect those weak paint defenders. Or it could be something else, entirely.
Whatever it is, we're likely to see Indiana take even more threes than they usually do, and Charlotte will have to hold them to a reasonable percentage if they want to stay competitive.
Detail That May Interest .08% of You: The Pacers have one player who's logged more than 600 minutes this season in their 20 games (Granger, at 740), and will likely have one more after tonight's game (Hibbert), possibly a third (Dunleavy). The Bobcats, in 21 games, have three guys who have played more than 700 minutes (Jackson, Diaw, Augustin) and one who's played more than 800 (Wallace).