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Rockets, Pacers thrilled for Manila preseason game

MANILA, Philippines – The Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers have expressed excitement about their upcoming trip to Manila for the NBA Global Games Philippines 2013 on Oct. 10.

“There has been a lot of talk about the Filipino passion for basketball from those who have visited and played the game over there. We can’t wait to experience it first-hand,” said Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale.

“We’re just excited to come over to play the game and give Filipinos a great show. I’m excited and happy to be back in Manila and see familiar faces. Fan base is amazing over in the Philippines. The crowd is unbelievable,” said Rockets shooting guard James Harden, who was last here for NBA 3X in July.

No active Indiana Pacers player has ever come to the Philippines before, but former Pacers Sam Perkins, who arrived in Manila for the 100 Days Countdown of the NBA Global Games in early July, was just as ecstatic about Filipino cage fans’ NBA IQ and enthusiasm.

The Rockets-Pacers game continues the interesting private rivalry between Houston and Indiana. Although the Indiana Pacers have enjoyed recent success against the Rockets – including winning seven of the last nine games in the series – Houston still leads the all-time series, 48-33. The Pacers, however, swept the season series against Houston in 2012-13, running their winning streak against the Rockets to four straight.

Perhaps no Pacers player has been as instrumental as Roy Hibbert to Indiana’s current success against the Rockets. Hibbert averaged 20.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks last season against Houston, while playing only 30.5 mpg. Since the Pacers acquired Hibbert in a Draft Day trade in 2008, he has faced the Rockets eight times, averaging 15.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks; the Pacers are 6-2 in those contests. With Hibbert anchoring Indiana’s defense last season, the Pacers held Houston, which ranked second overall in scoring (106.0 ppg) to 93.0 ppg.

In the teams’ first meeting last season, on Jan. 18, Hibbert scored 12 points on an efficient 6-of-12 from the field, to go along with nine rebounds and three blocks, in a 105-95 victory, as the Pacers won at home for the 11th straight time. All-Star Paul George provided most of the offense by scoring a game-high 31 points. Again, however, it was Indiana’s air-tight defense that proved the difference. With George on the perimeter and Hibbert protecting the rim, the Pacers limited All-Star James Harden to 17 points on 5-of-19 shooting. Harden had entered the game riding a career-best streak of 22 straight games with at least 20 points.

But this is a new season, and a whole different ball game.

For more information about the NBA Global Games, visit NBA.com, www.mallofasia-arena.com, Facebook.com/philsnba and Twitter @NBA_Philippines.

Photo: James Harden finds an opening against Paul George of the Indiana Pacers.

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