The Indiana Pacers have jumped out to 4-0 and have the best record in the NBA. While the Pacers are undefeated, they have been feasting on some of the league’s weaker teams.
The past week has seen Indiana take down the Wizards, Pelicans, Cavs, and Pistons. Beating the Pelicans was a particularly impressive comeback win, especially after having to stare down their new mascot that was clearly conceived in someone’s nightmares.
The hot start by the Pacers has vaulted them to the top of Marc Stein’s ESPN Power Rankings.
What have we learned after four game?
- Lance Stephenson is greatly improved. He is currently averaging 16.8 points per game and hitting 53-percent of his shots. He’s in the final year of his contract, and if this play continues it might be a challenge to resign him.
- Roy Hibbert is a block master. He is averaging 5.25 blocks per game and has 21 through four. He’s not the only one either, David West is blocking over two shots per game and Ian Mahinmi has nearly two per outing. Hibbert has been all defense, sending shots the other way and nearly nine rebounds a night.
- George Hill might have a lingering injury. He has a strained hip and is listed as day-to-day. He hurt it sometime during the Pelicans game (I’m guessing Pierre had something to do with it). Hip injuries are tough to deal with, and it might be an issue for sometime. It limits lateral movement and usually requires surgery down the road.
- Paul George is a closer. He’s putting up 27 points a night, over eight rebounds, and four assists. He has a player efficiency rating over 30 and is still playing outstanding defense. He’s popping three’s with a disdain for his opponents that Indiana hasn’t seen since Reggie Miller was suiting up. The Pacers have a true go-to guy who gets points when the team needs it most. He’s Miller, but plays much better defense. Is it possible for a player to win Most Improved two years in a row?
- The bench is much better. As a group, its averaging 28 points per game and everyone (except Chris Copeland) have a positive efficiency rating.
- The Pacers have the best defense in the NBA. They have allowed opponents to score 85 points per game, six points fewer than the next closest team (Cleveland). They are also allowing a shooting percentage of just under 38-percent and just 31-percent from the three point line.
- Turnovers are still a problem. The Pacers are 27th in the league in turnovers with 19.5 per game. For a team with championship aspirations, this is far too high. Yes, they play stifling defense but they’re giving opponents nearly 20 extra chances to score. Many of them come from too many extra passes or lapses in focus. Getting Hill pack should help that number go down as well as better familiarity with the new players on the court.
The good news for the Pacers is that they have been impressive without Danny Granger, who has to be looking more and more like trade bait as the season progresses. Granger is still recovering from the calf strain, but could be back next week.
What’s up next for the Pacers? Three games this week that could present quite a challenge. They have two back-to-back sets of games this week.
Nov. 6th – Indiana vs Chicago Bulls, 7pm ESPN
The Pacers defeated Detroit last night, and will quickly come home to face their current division rival. The Bulls are 1-2 with losses against the Heat (not surprising) and the Sixers (wait, what?). Their lone victory was a one point win at home against the Knicks. What do we know about the Bulls so far? For one, Derrick Rose isn’t 100-percent. He’s turning the ball over nearly six times per game and shooting under 29-percent from the field. He hasn’t played in the NBA in over a year, so some rust is expected but he looked better in the preseason than he has so far. If Hill isn’t healthy, Rose could have a big game as CJ Watson isn’t as good a defender. While the playoff enemy will be the Heat, the Pacers have to keep a step ahead of the Bulls during the regular season. Its a long year, but 5-0 would be the best start in franchise history.
The way the Pacers are playing, its hard to bet against them at home versus the Bulls. The Bulls are giving up 95 points per game, and allowing 45-percent shooting to opponents. The Pacers have their crowd back and it should be mostly blue and gold in the stands tonight. The home team wins a close game.
Nov. 8th – Indiana vs Toronto, 7pm
The Raptors are 2-2, but have a game against the Bobcats on Wednesday. They’ve lost to the Heat and Hawks, but beat the hapless Celtics and mediocre Bucks. They’re currently led by DeMar DeRozan, who is averaging 20.5 points per game. George will likely have the task of shutting down DeRozan, and will bring his numbers back to Earth. Rudy Gay has had a rough season so far and the team’s starting center is being out rebounded by bench players. The Raptors are likely to feast on the weakest teams, play tight against mediocre ones, and be dominated by the contenders.
Pacers cruise to an easy win at home.
Nov. 9th – Indiana at Brooklyn, 7:30pm NBATV
This will probably be the Pacers first loss of the season. Brooklyn is much improved with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but that doesn’t mean they’re contenders in the East. The Nets are 2-2, and face the Wizards Friday night before the Pacers come to town. The Nets lost to the Cavs and Magic, but pulled off a lopsided win against the Jazz. Their signature win was a one-point victory against the Heat. The Pacers are a much better team, but I have the feeling that a loss is coming soon, maybe tonight against the Bulls, but this one on the road seems more likely.
The Nets aren’t playing all that well right now, but they have a very solid starting five. At the very least, it will be a tough game for the Pacers.
This looks like a 2-1 week for Indiana, and that’s still pretty good. Jumping out to a 6-1 start is impressive, but its a very long season.
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