The Indiana Pacers set a franchise record this week after jumping out to 7-0 to start the season. The Pacers currently have the best record in the NBA and a three game lead in the Eastern Conference.
Indiana managed an impressive feat this past week: win four games in five nights. Two of those teams, the Bulls and Nets, were in the playoffs last season and considered contenders in the East.
Here’s what we learned this week:
- Paul George is an MVP contender. At least he is right now. He’s averaging 25 points per game, and hasn’t scored less than 21 in a game all season. He’s also eight rebounds, four assists, and nearly two steals a night. Most importantly is his improvement in field goal percentage. He’s shooting nearly 47-percent from the field (up five-percent) and 43-percent from the three point line (up nearly seven-percent).
- Roy Hibbert wants to be Defensive Player of the Year. He took some flack for tweeting that he was DPoY, but is it so wrong for him to have goals? Realistically, is he wrong? His blocks have come down a bit, but right now he’s second in the league with 4.29 per game. He’s also pulling in nine rebounds per game. Hibbert is an imposing presence, and even when he doesn’t get a block, he’s forcing players to alter their shots leading to misses.
- The Pacers are a second half team. They are currently scoring an average of 54 points in the second half of game, compared to 40 in the first. The Pacers are executing at a high level down the stretch (see: the Brooklyn game). Credit is due to Frank Vogel and the coaching staff for making adjustments at halftime.
Nov. 11th – Indiana vs Memphis, 7pm
The Pacers host the Grizzlies in a matchup of Conference Championship runner-ups. Memphis is sitting at 3-3 this season and will be hitting the road for the first time in three games. So far, the Grizz can’t seem to string together wins but are fresh off issuing a beating to Golden State, which is their only quality win of the season (others include OT vs Detroit, and home against Boston). The Grizz are led by point guard Mike Conley, originally from Indianapolis, who’s averaging 20 points per game and nearly six assists. They also have reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Marc Gasol (although I’m not entirely sure why). It will be interesting to watch the matchup between last year’s DPoY and this years self proclaimed one. Hibbert put on 15-pounds of muscle specifically to deal with guys like Gasol. Hibbert should have an advantage over Gasol as he outweighs him by 25-pounds. Memphis has played a lot like the Pacers over the past few years, emphasising tough defense.
Pacers should handle business at home and roll out to 8-0.
Nov. 15th – Indiana vs Milwaukee, 7pm
The Bucks are 2-3 and every game has been decided by eight points or less. They have games against the Heat and Magic before coming to Indianapolis. OJ Mayo leads the team with just under 19 points per game, but he’s also a flamethrower from the three point line, connecting on 56-percent of his long range shots. George will likely shadow Mayo for most of the game, and that means his shooting percentage will go down. The Pacers will have three days off to rest and prep. That time will be especially important for George Hill who is still nursing a hip injury.
This should be an easy win for the Pacers.
Nov. 16th – Indiana at Chicago, 8pm
Another week, another meeting against the Bulls. Chicago is 2-3, but play the Cavs tonight (first meeting between Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving) and Toronto on Friday. Both teams will be playing back-to-back games. The Bulls have been playing solid team ball and very good defense, but the offense isn’t there yet. Statistically speaking, the Bulls and Pacers might as well be the same team. Both rank in the top three in defense and are scoring in the low 90s.
This feels like the game the Pacers will finally lose. The Bulls are still trying to figure things out (read: waiting for Rose to get healthy). Indiana could win this game easily, but they have to lose sometime. I fully expect Stephenson to have a big game if the Pacers are 9-0, if only to make good on his win 10 challenge.
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