Indiana Pacers (46-15) at Houston Rockets (42-19), 9:30 p.m. (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Indiana Pacers will try to avoid their first three- game losing streak of the season Friday night, but it won't be easy as they visit the Toyota Center to face the Houston Rockets.
After a five-game win streak was halted by the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday in Indianapolis, the Pacers lost two in a row with a 109-87 setback in Charlotte on Wednesday.
"Over the last 20 games or so, we just haven't had our mojo," admitted David West. "We've got to change some things up because these last 20 games is going to be a battle."
The Pacers own a two-game lead over the two-time defending champion Miami Heat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference and are the only team to clinch a playoff berth already.
Evan Turner led the way with 22 points off the bench, while leading scorer Paul George netted a season-low two points on 0-for-9 from the field.
"The Bobcats are a great defensive team. All five players were dialed into everything he was doing. If he beat his man there was help. You just have to give them credit," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of how Charlotte defended George.
George Hill (17), Lance Stephenson (12), Chris Copeland (11) and West (10) also scored in double figures. Roy Hibbert also had a rough night, scoring just four points.
This is only the second time all season the Pacers have lost two in a row. Last time it happed was Dec.16-18 with losses at home to the Detroit Pistons and on the road to the Miami Heat.
The Pacers responded the next time out with a 33-point decisive win. Their opponent the night they avoided a three-game slide? These same Rockets.
"They were just a lot better than we were tonight, just all the way around the barn," Houston head coach Kevin McHale said of the Pacers on that fateful December night.
Since that setback, the Rockets are 25-9. They've won three in a row, all in the month of March, and 13 of their last 15 to reach a virtual tie for third in the Western Conference.
On Tuesday, Houston ended the Heat's eight-game winning streak at home, then one night later, the Rockets had little trouble on the road against the Orlando Magic. Houston left with a 101-89 victory.
Dwight Howard had another successful trip back to Orlando, scoring 19 points with 13 rebounds Wednesday night. James Harden led Houston with 31 points, Chandler Parsons scored 15 of his 19 in the second quarter and Terrence Jones chipped in 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The Rockets trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half but dominated the second half. Houston, which has won six in a row at home, hammered the Magic by 17 in the third quarter.
Houston will host Portland on Sunday, then hits the road for a brutal three- game stretch against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls and the Heat.
The Pacers have won four straight versus the Rockets, including two in a row in Houston. Indiana is 4-1 in its last five as the visitor in this series.
Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - James Harden came in averaging just 14.3 points per game in seven career tilts against the Indiana Pacers.
He surpassed that mark in the third quarter alone.
Harden netted 16 of his 28 points in that frame and the Houston Rockets routed the Pacers, 112-86, on Friday night.
The Rockets outscored Indiana 38-16 in the third to turn a seven-point halftime edge into a 29-point cushion heading into the fourth.
Dwight Howard had 15 points and seven rebounds for Houston, which has won 14 of its last 16 games.
David West tallied 15 points and 10 boards for the Pacers, who have dropped three straight for the first time this season.
Indiana trailed by as many as 16 in the first half, but whittled the gap to 50-43 going into the break. Paul George's pull-up jumper and driving dunk to begin the third pulled the Pacers within 50-47.
The Rockets, though, responded with a 23-3 run. Harden netted 11 points during the surge, including a triple and fast-break drunk to cap it and stake Houston to a commanding 73-50 advantage. Howard had seven points during the swing.
Harden was 6-of-8 from the field and knocked down 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in the staza.
Houston led 88-59 after three and cruised to the easy win in the fourth. Harden sat out the final frame.
Earlier, the Rockets built a 27-16 advantage after a quarter of play. Patrick Beverley led the way with seven of his nine points.