LOCAL basketball fans are not the only ones looking forward to the first ever NBA Global Games to be held here on October 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena, but the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers as well.
In a statement, Rockets coach Kevin McHale said he’s been hearing a lot about the Filipinos passion for the sport that he can’t wait to finally play their pre-season game with the Pacers in his first ever trip to the Philippines.
“There has been a lot of talks 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 McHale, the former Boston Celtics legend.
Recent Manila visitor and Houston superstar James Harden expressed the same thing.
“We’re just excited to come over to play the game and give Filipinos a great show,” said the high-scoring shooting guard.
“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,” added Harden, who came over the country last July as part of the NBA 3X along with Eric Gordon.
No active Indiana Pacers have ever come to the Philippines before, although former Indiana player Sam Perkins was in Manila last July for the 100 Days Countdown of the NBA Global Games.
The Rockets-Pacers game continues the interesting private rivalry between the two teams.
Although the Pacers have enjoyed recent success against the Rockets -- including winning seven of their last nine games -- Houston still leads the all-time match-up, 48-33.
The Pacers, however, swept the season series against Houston last season.
Perhaps no Pacers have 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, with the Pacers going 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.