It was just another ho-hum week of near perfect basketball for the Indiana Pacers who improved to 16-1. The Pacers notched four wins this past week and sit at the top of the NBA.
Indiana dominated the Timberwolves, Bobcats, and Wizards before heading out west to start a brutal road trip.
Here’s what we took away from those three games:
- Its not just Paul George. Three different players led the team in scoring over that stretch. George Hill put up 26 points against Minnesota, CJ Watson had 18 against Charlotte, and George had 23 against Washington. While George is the team’s go-to scoring option, they Pacers won’t struggle for points most nights.
- Lance Stephenson nearly gets another triple-double. Stephenson was just three points away from a triple-double against the Wizards, who by the end of the game just wanted to deny him the points. He got his 10th assist off one of the most amazing passes ever, and was dropping dimes all night. But by the end of the game he was forcing it on the court, and ended the game with eight turnovers, despite deafening chants of “We Want Lance” from the crowd. He was clearly frustrated, but seemed to get over it quickly.
- George might be Defensive Player of the Year. He had 10 steals over the three games, and is playing lock down defense every night. The only one who could have something to say about DPOY? His teammate, Roy Hibbert who only added four blocks over the three game, but is still the best rim defender in the NBA.
One of the knocks on the Pacers thus far is that they have feasted against some of the worst teams in the NBA. The current road trip, and subsequent games, will show what type of team Indiana really is.
On Sunday the Pacers took on the LA Clippers and came away with an impressive win. Despite not hitting a field goal over the final four minutes, Indiana shut down the Clippers to come away with the 105-100 win. It was the second most points the Pacers had allowed all season, and the most allowed in a win.
On a court full of stars, none shined brighter than George. He led all scorers with 27 points and had six rebounds and five assists.
The starters played more minutes than normal against LA, and that will likely be a theme over the next week. Getting positive minutes from the bench is going to be key for the Pacers in big games. The bench has been very productive, even without Danny Granger returning to active status.
Many people seem to have forgotten that Granger is still on the roster. He hasn’t played any meaningful minutes in over a year and is still recovering from a strained calf. On Oct. 28th the Pacers said that Granger would be out for three weeks, but its now been over a month. Reports indicate that he is getting better, and has been participating in shoot around with the team before games.
Getting Granger back and performing at even 80-percent of where he used to be could put this team on another level.
Dec. 2nd – Indiana at Portland, 10pm
The Trail Blazers currently sit at 14-3 and have a tie breaker over the Spurs for the best record in the Western Conference. This is another opportunity for the Pacers to prove that they belong in the NBA’s elite (despite taking Miami to seven in the Eastern Conference Finals last season). Portland is also suffering from a serious lack of challenging opponent, having faced just five teams that are above .500.
The Blazers are led by LaMarcus Aldridge who is averaging 22.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Their starting five has been very prolific, and they have a few key contributors off the bench.
The Pacers are playing at a very high level right now, and continue to get better on offense. This should be another win for Indiana, despite playing against a talented opponent.
Dec. 4th – Indiana at Utah, 9m
The Jazz are 3-15 (worst in the NBA), with a game against the Rockets on Monday. It’s a brief respite in this brutal trip out west. This game will give the Pacers a chance to rest its starters a bit and cruise to an easy win. Honestly, if the Pacers lose this game, it would be the most shocking thing to happen all season.
Dec. 7th – Indiana at San Antonio, 8:30pm
The Spurs are 14-3 and take on Atlanta and Minnesota before hosting the Pacers on Saturday. The Spurs have dropped two of their past three games (at OKC and home against Houston). If the Pacers were to have a losing streak, its likely to start here. Despite being advanced in age, the Spurs are still among the most elite teams in the NBA. There is nothing that this team hasn’t seen or overcome.
They currently have the second best defense in the country, holding opponents to 91.6 points per game. But that number is five points more than the Pacers are allowing.
Point guard Tony Parker is still suffering from ankle trouble, and recently had to sit out a game. He has since played and appears to be at full strength. Shutting down Parker is key to stopping the Spurs on offense. He creates everything on the court and makes less talented players look a lot better.
Expect a dogfight when the Pacers take the court. It will likely be a close game, but unfortunately I believe its one the Pacers will lose.
Dec. 8th – Indiana at Oklahoma City, 7pm
The Thunder are 12-3 (third in the West) and will be coming off a short three game road trip before the Pacers come to town. They are currently riding a seven game win streak.
Getting Russel Westbrook back from a knee injury has been a huge boost to this team that is thinking championship run. He’s giving them 21 points per game, 5.5 assists, and two steals. They also still have Kevin Durant who’s averaging 28 points per game, 5.5 assists, and 8 rebounds. The problem, if there is one, with these two players is that they turn the ball over a combined eight times per game.
While the Thunder have a great record, they’re outscoring opponents by just under five points. They also have won four games by three points or less, which has more to do with luck than actual ability.
This feels like another loss for the Pacers. Going into OKC is no easy task, and coming off what will be a physical matchup with the Spurs this game doesn’t look good. Thankfully the Thunder won’t be fresh either, and will be returning home after a game at New Orleans.
Going 3-2 on this trip would be outstanding. It’s possible for the Pacers to go undefeated, but I find that unlikely. They will drop at least one of these games, and it won’t be from lack of effort. Call it mental fatigue, but the long road trips can wear on a team.
The good news is that the schedule gets easier for the Pacers when they get home. Oh, wait, that’s right it doesn’t. The Miami Heat will come to Indiana for a visit once the Pacers return home.
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