The Indiana Pacers have responded very well to their coaching change and should be in line to keep that trend going.
The Pacers can improve to 4-0 under interim coach Frank Vogel on Sunday by beating the New Jersey Nets for the sixth straight time.
Last Sunday, Indiana (20-27) fired Jim O’Brien on Sunday after the team lost seven of eight games. The 37-year-old Vogel has come in and guided the Pacers past Toronto, Cleveland and Portland.
“This is a new team,” Vogel said. “A new beginning. We should be excited, OK? This is going to be a special end of the year, OK? Jump on board. Come out and see us.”
The Pacers are in a tight battle for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, and Vogel expects his team to get a berth.
“When we get in the playoffs, in that final week or two of the season, all the one seeds, Boston, Miami, or Orlando - they’re not going to want to play this basketball team,” he said.
Danny Granger(notes) had 25 points and nine rebounds in Friday’s 100-87 victory over Portland. Granger was questionable with a sinus infection, but made 7 of 13 shots from the field to help Indiana post its first winning streak of more than two games.
A key factor to this win streak has been Indiana’s effort on the glass. The Pacers have outrebounded their last three foes by an average of 18.0 boards, including a 58-39 cushion Friday.
“We’re changing the identity of our basketball team - dramatically,” Vogel said. “We are a power post team, blood and guts, old school, smashmouth team, that plays with size, strength, speed, athleticism. We attack the basket.”
The Nets (15-36) have lost four of five following a 92-82 loss at Detroit on Friday. Anthony Morrow(notes) scored 22 points in his first start since Dec. 12 in place of Stephen Graham(notes), who had started the previous 23 games before he was benched.
New Jersey was outrebounded for the second straight game, 40-34.
“Right now we need to do better on the boards and we have to hit first,” coach Avery Johnson said. “Until we learn how to hit first, it is going to continue.”
The Pacers have averaged 33.0 first-quarter points during this win streak. They have played well offensively during their five-game streak over New Jersey, shooting 51.0 percent and averaging 111.6 points.
That includes Indiana’s second-best shooting performance of the season, finishing at 62.5 percent in a 124-92 rout of the Nets on Jan. 28. New Jersey allowed its highest point total of the season.
The 7-foot-2 Hibbert will be counted on to try to slow down the 7-footer Brook Lopez(notes), picked seven spots ahead of him in the 2008 draft. Lopez is averaging 25.2 points and 8.6 rebounds in his last five games against Indiana.