The Indiana Pacers are coming off a light week that featured two wins over the Brooklyn Nets. The Pacers were snubbed for the Christmas Day games for more popular teams.
The two New York clubs were beaten by a combined 46 points. Three of the four Eastern Conference teams playing on Christmas have sub .500 records, but in fairness only three teams are even above .500.
Regardless, the Pacers had most of the week off and still managed to take apart the Nets twice. Indiana has four straight games now where they’ve broken 100 points and have improved to 24-5 this season.
The schedule is pretty light for the next couple weeks. Nine of the Pacers next 10 opponents have losing records. This stretch will let the Pacers fine tune the rotation and give Danny Granger extended minutes to get his legs back.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, Granger is going to need all the minutes he can get. He has a history of slow starts, so this isn’t all that surprising. In the first game against the Nets last week he was 0-for-7 for zero points. In the second, he was 3-for-9 for eight points. Right now, he’s averaging 6.3 points per game and three rebounds. Expect his numbers to improve over the next couple weeks.
Hill to D-League
The extended minutes for Granger has had one notable impact on the roster however, rookie Solomon Hill is headed to the D-League. He’s playing with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. The team reported that the decision was up to Hill: stay on the Pacers bench, or get starting minutes in Fort Wayne. He chose the minutes.
This will be good for his development. He gets to compete against quality competition and improve his skill set. Basketball is one of the few sports where simply playing the game will make you better. He wasn’t going to see the court much this season, regardless of Granger’s status, and this will provide him the opportunity to get better and contribute down the road.
Lance Stephenson Stuff
Go take a look at Stephenson’s game log. I’ll wait. Done? His past three games include a triple-double, back-to-back 20+ point games, and a shooting percentage above 60-percent. Apparently he loves playing against Brooklyn (his hometown), because he has always been dominant against the Nets.
His high level of play has been impressive the past few weeks, and he’s become a fan favorite. He’s quickly turning into the type of player that a terrible team will pay a lot of money to sign next summer.
For the past few weeks, rumors have been swirling about the Pacers being involved in some big trades. The names that keep coming up are George Hill and Granger for Rajon Rondo. Some people believe that Indiana is just a true point guard away from being truly dangerous.
So far, there isn’t any evidence to support the rumors. A lot of the reports indicated the Pacers trading their 2014 first round draft pick, which is already in the hands of the Phoenix Suns. Additionally, Rondo might not even be cleared to play until February. The Celtics wouldn’t trade away their last superstar for anything less than a first round pick either.
On a personal level, this idea of trading for Rondo is ridiculous. Rondo is locker room cancer. He would completely destroy the chemistry that this team has built up. Hill is a solid PG for this team and Granger is going to provide valuable minutes off the bench (as well as push Stephenson to keep playing at a high level).
Dec. 31st – Cleveland at Indiana, 3:00pm
The Cavs are floundering at 10-20 right now. The latest news out of Cleveland is that Andrew Bynum has been benched and they are seeking to trade him away. I’m not entirely sure why a team would want a player who was benched for “conduct detrimental to the team,” but then I’m not a GM.
This is the Kyrie Irving show, almost to a fault. He is trying to do so much that its actually detrimental to the team. Stopping him stops the Cavs offense, and the Pacers are more than capable of doing so. Indiana won by 15 the last time these two met, expect that number to be higher this time.
Jan. 1st – Indiana at Toronto, 7:00pm
The Raptors sit at 13-15 and face the Bulls on the 31st. They have been playing very well lately, having knocked off Dallas in OT and beating Oklahoma City, both on the road. They lost at San Antonio but bounced back to beat New York twice. For a team that the GM wants to tank, they have looked solid recently.
The Pacers beat the Raptors by seven when they met in Indy. Both teams have gotten better since. This feels like a game that the Pacers could drop, being the second of a back-to-back. Rudy gay led all scorers last time, and he has since been traded away (because they really want to tank). But looking at the matchups, the Pacers should run away with this game.
Jan. 4th – New Orleans at Indiana, 7:00pm
The Pelicans, and their creepy mascot, sit at 14-15 before games at Minnesota and Boston. Last time these two met, the Pacers managed to steal a game on the road early in the year. With the Pelicans coming to Indy, and on the weekend, expect a packed house and a rout. The Pelicans have been alternating winning and losing streaks, and recently knocked off Portland by two.
There is a chance that Indiana-native Eric Gordon will be out of the game with a hip injury. The Pelicans have been hampered by numerous injuries this season, but are a solid team when healthy. Being in the West is rough on average teams. The Pacers will win this one, pulling away in the third quarter as they always do.
Jan. 5th – Indiana at Cleveland, 6:00pm
Basically see what we wrote before. No reason the Pacers can’t take this show on the road and churn out another dominant performance against a bad team.
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