The Indiana Pacers impressive season rolled on into 2014 with the Pacers sitting atop the NBA. Indiana currently holds the league’s best record at 27-6.
The Pacers were 3-1 last week. Four of the Pacers six losses have come on the second game of a back-to-back, and last week’s loss was no exception. Indiana fell to Toronto on New Years Day after dominating Cleveland.
The Pacers turned the ball over 22 times, were out rebounded, and committed an uncharacteristic 27 fouls (they average 19.8). The Raptors simply outplayed Indiana. The good news, more or less, is that the Pacers will get another shot at the Raptors this week at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
On Saturday the Pacers faced off against New Orleans. They opened the game in front of a stadium that was maybe a third full, and had to rally in the second half, much like another team just a few blocks away. Colts fans poured out of Lucas Oil, having just witnessed a miraculous comeback, filled up BLF to watch the Pacers do just the same.
Indiana also faced Cleveland twice last week. They dominated them in the first meeting, at home, but had more trouble on the road. The Cavs faced a 16-point deficit in the fourth, before going on a 16-1 run. The Pacers managed to fend off the rally, and eek out a four point win.
Here’s what we took away from the past week:
- Mini-Slump? Paul George hasn’t quite been himself the past week. He shot 36-percent from the field this week. He also had two games where he scored under 10 points. In the loss to the Raptors, he had five fouls and six turnovers. The Pacers chances of success fall when he is turned into a volume shooter. His defense is always superb, but when the referees are calling games tight he has a tendency to end up in foul trouble. He still has to be in the top three for MVP consideration this season.
- Continued Improvement. Danny Granger is embracing his role with the team. He’s one of the first players off the bench and has been getting better with each game. In the past four games Granger scored in double digits each night, had 14 rebounds, and turned the ball over just four times. He also learned how to play defense while rehabbing and had four steals over the past week. Couple all that with 47-percent shooting, and you have to love what Granger is giving the Pacers right now (and you can forget about those trade rumors).
- The Lance Factor. Lance Stephenson is proving invaluable to this team. He’s averaging 13 points per game, five assists, and 6.5 rebounds. Stephenson gives them a spark, especially when he’s running with the second unit. But with his continued improvement comes a price. Can the Pacers afford to keep him on the roster next season? Stephenson has become the kind of player that a middling or bad team would pay big money to have on their roster. Some estimates put his future contract in the $7-$9 million range. Stephenson stated that he would stay with the Pacers in November. He’s also close friends with George, and has a lot of loyalty to President Larry Bird, who took a chance on him in the draft back in 2010 Draft.
The Pacers have three games in the coming week, our previews on the next pages.