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W2W4: Pacers struggling without their star

Think the Mavericks miss Dirk Nowitzki? Maybe not as much as the Pacers missing Danny Granger.

With Granger as their star, the Pacers claimed the East’s third seed and gave the Heat a serious scare in the second round of the playoffs last season. With him sidelined for months by knee problems, the 3-6 Pacers are the NBA’s lowest-scoring team, averaging only 87.8 points per game, almost 10 fewer than they did last season.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the Mavs can afford to take Indiana lightly. After all, the Mavs have managed to lose to the Bobcats and injury-ravaged Timberwolves over the last week.

The Pacers’ size in particular presents a challenge to the Mavs. Indiana ranks third in the NBA in rebounding differential at plus-5.6 per game. Rebounding has been one of the Mavs’ biggest weaknesses, although the Mavs did outrebound the Wizards by six boards in Wednesday’s win with 7-footer Chris Kaman in the starting lineup.

Records: Mavs (5-4); Pacers (3-6)

When: 6 p.m.

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse

TV: FSSW

Radio: ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1270 AM (Spanish)

What to watch: Roy Hibbert, the Pacers’ All-Star center, is off to an awful start (8.2 points, .386 field goal percentage). The Mavs can’t let him get well against them. That’s a legitimate concern because the Mavs have struggled against post-up players this week. They couldn’t stop Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic (20 points in 28 minutes) until he sprained his ankle. They couldn’t stop Washington’s Kevin Seraphin at all in Wednesday’s fourth quarter, when he had 14 points on 7-of-7 shooting. Hibbert and Kaman, whom the Pacers would have signed to a long-term deal if they opted not to match the offer Portland made to Hibbert as a restricted free agent, had mixed results in their battles last season. Hibbert had 30 points and 13 rebounds in Indiana’s Feb. 21 win over the Hornets. Less than two weeks later, Kaman held Hibbert without a field goal, although the Pacers still won the game.

Key matchup: Darren Collison vs. George Hill – This is definitely the matchup with the most intrigue. The Pacers considered Collison expendable after giving his starting job to Hill late last season. Collison, whom the Pacers shipped to Dallas along with Dahntay Jones in the Ian Mahinmi sign-and-trade deal, got off to a spectacular start with the Mavs but has struggled recently. Hill has also been up and down this season. He’s averaging 14.7 points and 4.7 assists -- highlighted by a 29-point, seven-assist performance against the Timberwolves last week -- but is coming off a three-point, 1-of-10 stinker in Wednesday’s loss to the Bucks.

Injuries: Mavs – PF Dirk Nowitzki (knee) is out. F Shawn Marion (knee) expects to play. C/F Brandan Wright (illness) should be available. Pacers – SF Danny Granger (knee) is out. PF David West (ankle) is day-to-day.

Up next: at Cleveland Cavaliers, 6:30 p.m. Saturday