After dropping a closely fought 95-86 home game to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, the Dallas Mavericks will try to defend their home court when the Indiana Pacers, who have moved to the top of the Eastern Conference this season, come into town on Friday.
Indiana, after adding George Hill and David West in the off-season, has taken a dramatic step forward from last year's squad, who made the playoffs as the No. 8 seed before battling Chicago in a 4-1 first-round series that was closer than the final results might seem.
The Pacers are a balanced team offensively, with all five of their starters -- Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Paul George, Darren Collison and West -- averaging in double figures.
Granger, a 6'8 230 small forward, is the team's leading scorer. Dallas figures to use Shawn Marion heavily on the Pacers All-Star, who prefers to use his 6'8 release point to loft shots from the perimeter.
Their other main weapon is Hibbert, a massive 7'2 260 center from Georgetown, who plays with a skill level that belies his size. Hibbert is the type of player that Brendan Haywood, who is expected to play after missing the Thunder game with tightness in his lower back, needs to be able to shut down in the low post to justify the more than $7 million he receives annually.
Neither of the Pacers top scorers are a traditional first-option, which is why Indiana's 8th rated defense is the key for them to advance past the first round of the playoffs.
With Dirk Nowitzki still struggling with knee issues, the Mavericks will need a balanced scoring effort from Rodrigue Beaubois, Delonte West, Vince Carter, Lamar Odom and Marion to keep pace with the Pacers.
The 7:30 PM game will be televised regionally on Fox Sports Southwest.