The Nets were 2-7 in the nine games Lopez missed with ankle woes, and now it appears they'll be without him for the rest of the 2013-14 season with his broken foot. That means guys like Mirza Teletovic, Andray Blatche and Mason Plumlee will have to step up, and the first test will be tonight against Pacers big man Roy Hibbert.
I'd expect Jason Kidd to use Kevin Garnett primarily at center now, with Teletovic potentially getting regular playing time as the starting power forward. That would enable Andray Blatche and Mason Plumlee to continue coming off the bench in their regular roles, albeit likely with more playing time overall.
The last time these two teams played, the Pacers defeated the Nets 96-91 back on November 9 at the Barclays Center.
Brooklyn had won the previous four meetings before Indiana's win last month.
All in all, it's going to be as tough a matchup as the Nets have had all season, and they'll need to play mistake-free to win tonight.
Key Matchup: Paul George has emerged as a star for the Pacers, and he may give the Nets defense fits. Alan Anderson and Joe Johnson will likely get the first crack at him, with Paul Pierce coming off the bench and matching up with him as well.
The 6'9 George is sixth in the NBA in scoring averaging 23.9 points per game, along with 5.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Keeping him off the stat sheet as much as possible will be crucial for the Nets tonight. It certainly won't be easy.
Player to Watch: Paul Pierce enters tonight's game coming off by far his two best games of the season, averaging 25.4 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 4.0 APG on 17-of-21 (81.0%) shooting over that span, including 7-of-11 (63.6%) from behind the arc.
With Johnson returning to the lineup after missing Friday's game due to personal reasons, Pierce is expected to return to leading the second unit, a role he's appeared to have settled into nicely. The Nets will need his hot shooting to continue against a Pacers team that's the best in the NBA in opponents' PPG and Defensive Rating.