Last week, the Indiana Pacers suffered their first losing streak of the season. The Pacers lost close games at home against Detroit and on the road at Miami. It led some to believe that the Pacers were finally cracking under the pressure and the flaws of the team were being exposed.
How did the Pacers respond? By posting back-to-back wins by 27-plus points.
The loss against Detroit had a lot to do with the Pacers energy level, and was the first game all season where they lost to a team that was inferior. The Pistons are surprisingly talented team that poses some matchup problems for Indiana. Detroit was able to shoot a high percentage and out-rebounded the Pacers by 15. When those two things happen, it’s tough for any team to win.
Miami was able to go on a big run late in a game that the Pacers had dominated all night long. Roy Hibbert spent most of the game on the bench with foul trouble and Paul George was fouled on the potential game tying shot, but no call was made.
The Pacers rebounded by taking apart the Rockets on Friday night. They won by 33 and shut down the second best offense in the NBA. The Rockets average 106 points per game, but were held to 81 by Indiana.
They went on to ruin Brad Steven’s return to Indianapolis by routing the Celtics by 27. Lance Stephenson had another triple-double and was able to do it in the flow of the game as opposed to forcing it (like he tried to do a few weeks ago against Washington).
Here’s what stood out over the past week:
- Energy. That last two games, we’ve seen the Pacers come out with a level of energy that the other team simply can’t match. When that happens, well, it leads to 30 point wins. Indiana can always lean on its defense to keep them in games, but when they have that extra boost this team is just ridiculous.
- The Return. Danny Granger finally made his debut this season, much to the fans delight. He struggled against Houston, but he did block Dwight Howard on his first play back on the court. Against the Celtics, Granger had 12 points, shot 50-percent, and had five rebounds. Apparently its not going to take him too long to find his role with the Pacers and make a big contribution.
- The Bench. Its clear now that the Pacers have the best bench in the NBA. Granger joins Luis Scola, CJ Watson, and Ian Mahinmi as a group that can generate a lead for the Pacers rather than lose it.
- MVP. The train rolls on for Paul George this season. He has been on another level all season long on both sides of the ball. George is giving the Pacers 20-plus points while limiting the opponents best scorer and creating havoc on defense.
- George also has a permanent residence in James Harden’s head. On Friday, Harden had just 12 points off 3-for-14 shooting and turned the ball over five times. The PG Effect.
- Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Sellout home games are quickly becoming the norm for the Pacers. If you haven’t gone to a game yet, I highly recommend doing so. The atmosphere is electric and its amazing to see the city behind the team again after all they’ve been through the in the late 2000’s. The G2 Zone and Area 55 (sponsored by George, George Hill and Hibbert) are basically student sections at a college game. Their energy is infectious as was evidenced by the crowd singing “Just a Friend” by Biz Markie to Brad Stevens late in the game. Going to a game at BLF is almost exactly like going to a high energy college game in Bloomington.
The Pacers sit at 22-5. They’re 1.5 games ahead of the Heat in the East and are a half game behind Portland in the NBA.
The Pacers play two games against the same opponent, the Brooklyn Nets, this week. They’ll be at Brooklyn on Monday (7:30pm) and home on Saturday (7:00pm).
The Nets (9-17) are in rough shape. Injuries have plagued this team all season long and now Brook Lopez will be out for the rest of the season with a foot injury. Lopez was leading the the team in scoring with over 20 points per night and six rebounds. Defensively, he was giving the Nets 1.76 blocks per game as well.
Hibbert said that he put on muscle in the offseason specifically to go up against physical players like Lopez. Without him on the court, Hibbert will dominate the low block. Lopez’s backup, Andray Blatche, is smaller in both height and weight. He simply won’t be able to guard Hibbert one-on-one.
The Pacers will win both of these games, likely by double-digits. I expect them to get off to a slow start tonight since it will be the second game of a back-to-back. The Nets won’t be able to keep up on either end of the court as the Pacers get two more wins.
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