The Indiana Pacers returned home Sunday night after a brutal road trip. The Pacers managed to go 3-2 out west while facing some of the NBA’s elite talent and improved their overall record to 18-3, still the best in the NBA.
There are very few teams that would be able to come out of such a trip with a positive record.
Here’s some things that stood out from the trip:
- Paul George is an absolute MVP candidate. And he is likely the front runner. He average 29.8 points a night over the past five games. His scoring ability has become effortless and his defense is second to none right now (averaging 2.1 steals per game, 7th in the NBA). He has to be the frontrunner for MVP since he’s playing at such a high level on both sides of the ball.
- Opponents must shoot above 50-percent to beat the Pacers. The Bulls shot 50.6-percent, the Trail Blazers shot 47.4-percent (but were over 50 for most of the game), and the Thunder shot an insane 61-percent. Having consistent games over 50-percent is rare, but it is even more difficult with the way the Pacers play defense. There is no chance of a team consistently shooting above 50-percent in a seven game series.
- The Trail Blazers might make the NBA Finals. The West is stacked this season (as it usually is). But after seeing the Blazers play, they have finals team written all over them. The Pacers played them to a stand still and could have put them away in the third, but just couldn’t land a knockout blow. Losing by four, on the road, on the end of a back-to-back isn’t anything to be ashamed of, especially when its the second best team in the league. (Side note: no way in hell Mo Williams can consistently give them 10+ points off the bench.)
- Kevin Durant is a whiny baby. After beating down the Pacers, who beat up the Spurs the night before, Durant said he was tired of hearing about George. Durant was all bent out of shape because the national spotlight has been on George for the past month, since he is the best player on the best team in the NBA. Therefore, Durant made it his mission to beat up on George and the Pacers.
- Side Note: The Pacers came into this game after beating the Spurs the night before. The Thunder had that night off to rest and prep. They also weren’t coming off a five game road trip.
- Danny Granger actually practiced with the team. He’s making painfully slow progress after the team said he’d be out for a month. This makes me think his calf injury was much more severe than the Pacers admitted to the media. Hopefully he can get back on the court soon as having him coming off the bench would be a huge boost for this team.
After seeing how the Pacers performed against the best the West has to offer, it seems like its time to start talking about if the Pacers will win 70 games this season. Its a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the 1995-96 Bulls went 72-10.
Why do I think this could happen? Because outside of the Miami Heat, the Eastern Conference is a giant dumpster fire. There are currently five teams with a sub-.500 record making the playoffs. The Boston Celtics lead the Atlantic Division with a 10-12 record. That’s a division that includes the Nets (6-14) and Knicks (5-14).
Basically, the Pacers can feast on the East as long as they keep their laser sharp focus. If its all about home court advantage, then 70 games is a real possibilty.
The Pacers have a relatively light week with just two games. But one of those games is the biggest of the season.
Dec. 10 – Indiana vs Miami, 7pm
The Heat sit two games behind the Pacers with a 16-5 record. For the Pacers, this is their brass ring. They don’t just want to beat the Heat, they want to take them apart and prove they’re the favorites in the East. The Pacers haven’t had a losing streak all season, and should be more than motivated after the bad loss to the Thunder.
The Heat are currently trying to get healthy as Dwyane Wade and Michael Beasley were recently listed as day-to-day. Wade will likely play after missing three recent games, but how effective he will be is the real question (also can he handle a much improved Lance Stephenson?).
The Pacers are giving up just 81.8 points per game at home this season, while the Heat average 103.5 per game. For all the talk about the Pacers having played a soft schedule, its really the Heat who haven’t faced anyone. They’ve play just two teams with a record above .500 and all their losses have come against teams with losing records. This will be their most challenging game all season.
I like the Pacers to win this one by a wide margin. Whether they will admit it or not, the Pacers have had this game circled since the schedules were released. They will come out strong with statement game on their minds and finish with a convincing win over the defending champs.
And then, in a week, they’ll head to Miami and do it all over again.
Dec. 13th – Indiana vs Charlotte, 7pm
The Bobcats come to town on Friday. They sit at 10-11, with a game against Orlando on Wednesday. If the playoffs started today, the Bobcats would actually be the six seed. This is a team that had 21 wins all of last season, and is already halfway there in December. They didn’t get their 10th win until January last season.
That said, the Pacers are going to take them apart. The last time these two met, the Pacers won at Charlotte 99-74. Expect the Pacers to win by more when the Bobcats come to Indy.
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