Right now, Indiana has a two game lead over the Miami Heat for first place in the East. With the news coming out of Chicago that Derrick Rose is done for the season after tearing his meniscus, the Central Division is pretty much a lock. Its a tough break for Rose who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Personally, I’d rather see the Pacers win the division with Rose active. It would be more impressive in that circumstance.
Last week, the Pacers beat the New York Knicks in overtime following an impressive comeback in the fourth quarter. They then went to Boston and wore down the Celtics in the second half on the way to a double digit victory (it also featured the Pacers out scoring the Celtics 25-8 in the third). The Pacers then returned home to win a back-and-forth game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Here’s the highlights from last week:
- Paul George is the unquestioned leader of this team. He is also the go-to scorer that this team hasn’t had since maybe Reggie Miller. He had 35 points against the Knicks and was dominant in the fourth quarter and overtime. Most importantly, he also hit three free throws to tie the game and locked down Carmelo Anthony to force OT. He’s also been playing lockdown defense and had nine steals last week (forced Anthony into 10-of-28 shooting).
- Roy Hibbert is hosting weekly block parties. He had 10 more blocks last week and was drawing the ire of opponents. His game against the 76ers was incredibly impressive with 27 points and 13 rebounds. It was nice to see Hibbert have a big game after be kept in check on the offensive end by the Celtics and Knicks.
- The Pacers need Ian Mahinmi as a backup. He didn’t play against the 76ers and Philly managed 23 offensive rebounds. Mahinmi might not give this team much offensively, but he is a good rebounder and plays hard on the defensive end.
- Side note: the discrepancy between the way fouls are called against him and Hibbert is amazing. Mahinmi gets called for little things that Hibbert gets away with regularly. It shouldn’t be called that way, but that’s the NBA and what star power does for you.
- Lance Stephenson notched another triple-double. He had 10 points, 10 assists, and 11 rebounds against the Celtics to go along with four steals. He is also taking extra time to work on the miscues of his game by staying after practice and doing extra film study. He’s come such a long way from the dumb kid who couldn’t stay out of trouble.
Nov. 25th – Indiana vs Minnesota, 7pm
The Pacers host the Timberwolves tonight. Minnesota comes to town with an 8-7 record, and are 2-5 on the road. The Timberwolves are a tough team to figure out. They have the third best offense in the country and are sixth in the Hollinger Ratings. PF Kevin Love is a legitimate MVP candidate and is averaging a double-double per game. Ricky Rubio has been outstanding at the point, dishing out over eight assists per game. With that said, they’re currently sitting out of the playoffs. They’ve beaten Oklahoma City, but turned around and lost to Washington, but they’ve only had two losses by more than 10 points.
This will likely be a close game, but the Pacers should still win. Defense usually prevails when facing a dominant offense. Couple that with the fact that Minnesota can’t win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and this game feels like a lock for the Pacers.
Nov. 27th – Indiana at Charlotte, 7pm
The Bobcats are 7-7, which has to be their best start in years. The only thing this team is particularly good at is defense, ranking third and holding opponents to 91.6 points per game. Kemba Walker leads the team with nearly 16 points per game and four assists. They play the Celtics tonight before hosting the Pacers on Wednesday.
The team also feature former Hoosier Cody Zeller, who has been coming off the bench this season. The Bobcats have played a number of teams close, but still end up losing. This should be an easy win for the Pacers facing an offensively challenged Charlotte team.
Nov. 29th – Indiana vs Washington, 8pm
The Wizards sit at 5-8 and have struggled to become anything more than a middle of the road team this season. They’re 16th in scoring, but 21st defensively. John Wall leads the team with 18.6 points per game and nearly nine assists a night. This game will be a big test for George Hill who will be forced to shadow Wall all night, while Paul George is on Bradley Beal or Trevor Ariza.
A home game against a bad Wizards team will likely mean another win for the Pacers.
Dec. 1st – Indiana at LA Clippers, 3:30pm
The Pacers kick off a brutal five game road trip out west with the Clippers. This is where the difficulty really notches up for the Pacers. The Eastern Conference is a dumpster fire outside of the Pacers and Heat. Indiana will have to face the top four teams in the West during this trip (also, the Jazz who are 1-14).
The Clippers are 10-5 this season and rank second in points per game. Over the weekend, they demolished the Bulls by 39 points.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are a very dangerous one-two punch, but when paired with floor spacers like Jamal Crawford and JJ Reddick, it makes playing defense against this team incredibly difficult. Couple that with the improved coaching of Doc Rivers (who I still say is overrated), and the Clippers a very dangerous team. What holds this team back is that they don’t seem to play defense and allow opponents to score 103 points per game, nearly at the bottom of the league.
This road stretch is going to be rough, going 2-3 or 3-2 would be nice, but it also wouldn’t be surprising if they end it at 1-4. The Pacers should beat the Clippers and improve to 16-1 by this point in the week.
The good news is that when the Pacers get home from out west, they’ll face the Heat.
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