What has Indiana done lately?
The vaunted Pacers have lost three games in a row. This is the longest losing streak of the season for Indy. The last two games, against the Charlotte Bobcats and Houston Rockets, were complete blow-outs. Indiana lost both of those games by a combined score of 221-173.
In Charlotte, Al Jefferson carved up the Pacers' interior defense doing work in the post. Big Al dropped 34 points on Indy while also pulling down eight rebounds. Two nights later in Houston, the Rockets exploded in the third quarter, outscoring the Pacers 38-16. James Harden had 16 points in the frame. The loss to the Rockets was the Pacers' largest margin of defeat of the season.
What are the Pacers' biggest strength and weakness?
The standard response to this question is that their defense is their biggest strength. It still is despite the recent losses. These losses are likely the result of a long season and a mental lapse on the part of the Pacers. They aren't tied with the Thunder for the best record in the NBA based on nothing. Their defensive focus and effort is what got them to the top. All Indy needs to do is to refocus and their defense will return to prominence. At least that is probably what head coach Frank Vogel is telling his team.
Their weakness, though, is a different story. Indiana's offense has not been as efficient since the start of 2014. This is still a team that relies a bit too heavily on Paul George's ability to score, especially from midrange. Those shots haven't been falling. If George, and the Pacers' offense as a whole, cannot get it going, they will run into trouble. (I link a post detailing the Pacers' offensive decline in today's Q&A so please click it.)
Which Indy player might be due for a big game?
After losing three games in a row, you can imagine that the onus to perform falls on the stars of the team. Paul George especially has something to prove. However, David West will probably be the Pacer that will have a good game.
With Hibbert manning the middle, the Mavs will have to keep a big man on him the entire game. This leaves Dirk Nowitzki as the primary defender on West for much of the game. Shawn Marion will probably see some time guarding him as well. West's presence, though, poses the greatest matchup problem for Dallas.
What do the Mavs need to do to be successful against the Pacers?
In the immortal words of the late Al Davis, "Just win, baby."