Pacers-Rockets Preview


Strong play at home has kept the Houston Rockets in contention for a playoff spot.

The Rockets will try for their third straight victory at the Toyota Center on Sunday night when they host the Indiana Pacers.

Just 2 1/2 games separate four teams for the final three playoff spots in the Western Conference, with the Rockets (28-24) currently tied with Denver for the seventh seed.

They have won four of six overall, including a 98-89 win over Memphis on Friday as they improved to 20-7 at home this season.

Houston has won five of its last six at the Toyota Center and is averaging 105.1 points in its last eight games there. However, eight of the Rockets' last 13 games are on the road, including a four-game trip that starts Monday at league-leading Chicago.

Knowing that, Houston is trying to take advantage of its remaining home games, particularly ones against teams ahead of it in the standings.

Marcus Camby had 16 rebounds and six blocked shots Friday while Goran Dragic scored a season-high 25 points. The Rockets led the entire way, shooting 52.1 percent.

Camby, signed earlier this month, started in place of Samuel Dalembert (flu) and played a season-high 36 minutes despite dealing with torn ligaments in his left wrist.

"Right now, this is our playoffs," Camby said. "I can't afford to sit out. We have a shortage of guys and a shortage of big guys as it is."

Dalembert came off the bench and played 17 minutes, but Kyle Lowry (bacterial infection) and Kevin Martin (strained right shoulder) have been out for extended time and remain sidelined.

Like the Rockets, the Pacers (30-21) are trying to improve their playoff position. They are in fifth place in the East - one-half game up on Atlanta - as they try to move into one of the top four spots and earn homecourt advantage in the first round.

However, Indiana has lost two of three - both on the road. The Pacers fell 112-103 at San Antonio on Saturday despite shooting 53.2 percent.

Danny Granger and Paul George each scored 18 points but it wasn't nearly enough for Indiana, which trailed the entire game.

Indiana has allowed an average of 103.5 points in its last six road games - nearly 10 higher than its season average.

The Pacers won't have much time for rest in the season's home stretch. This contest concludes the first of three sets of back-to-backs for Indiana over the next week.

"The rest of our schedule is kind of tough. We don't have any days off in between back-to-backs and whatnot," Granger said. "We really have to close out these last 14 and 15 games and go 12-2, 12-3 - you know, something like that, to really get a lot of momentum going into the playoffs."

The Rockets swept last season's two-game series with the Pacers.