The Pacers have been out west for the last four games, which ended in a 2-2 record. After beating the Lakers and Kings, they fell to the Jazz and Suns. They will now return home to face the Toronto Raptors on Monday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Seven of the next eight games will be against teams from the east, but the one game against the western conference will be a rematch with the reigning NBA Champion Lakers, whom they beat in L.A. to start that four-game West Coast trip. Needless to say, they will be salivating at the opportunity to return the favor of beating them in front of the home fans.
The first two games looked like the new Pacers team that many people have been talking about this season. Everyone played crisp offensively, the ball was moving great, the defense was tenacious and guys were crashing the boards and diving for loose balls. The other two games did not look like that team.
The turnovers, lack of rebounding and inconsistent offense led to the two losses in Utah and Phoenix. Danny Granger struggled in the game against Phoenix, finishing with just eight points. Brandon Rush had a season high of 21 to continue his impressive season, but it wasn’t enough as they fell apart in the second half.
Three of the four games out west were against probable playoff teams, but now things might get a little bit easier with the upcoming schedule. They have the Raptors Monday night at home, before they head up to Milwaukee to face the Bucks. They will return home for a game against the Bobcats, before hitting the road for contests against the Hawks and Bulls.
Pacers coach Jim O’Brien activated all three of his point guards for the first time this season. Veteran center Jeff Foster, who has appeared in only two games this season, joined rookies Lance Stephenson and Paul George on the inactive list. O’Brien said he activated A.J. Price because he was inclined to go with a small lineup, which meant sliding Josh McRoberts to center rather than using an extra big man.
It looks like the starting lineup will stay relatively consistent this season, with four of the five guys starting each week, while the starting SG will depend on the opponent. Whether it is Dunleavy or Rush, they will both get their minutes, and it just depends on who is on the floor and who is better apt to guard them.
Rush will obviously guard the quicker, smaller guards, while Dunleavy will face the bigger guys that might not be as much of a threat offensively. Both guys are playing very well this season, and are comfortable coming off the bench if necessary.
If the Pacers want to keep improving this season, they will need Granger to be a little more consistent with his shooting. Normally one of the best offensive weapons in the NBA, Granger has struggled the last couple of games since his season-high scoring performance against the Kings last week.
In Sacramento, he shot 12 of 19 and finished with 37 points, in a game he played despite having the flu. The next two games though, he shot just 8-29 from the floor, with a total of 22 points. Obviously he isn’t going to average 11 points every game, but he needs to get out of his shooting slumps quicker. If he can get some early layups and points in the paint, that could really make things easier for him as the game goes on.
Before the last two games against the Jazz and Suns, the Pacers looked like a team on the rise. Many writers had the Pacers in the top 12 of their weekly Power Rankings, which has gotten many heads to turn. A lot of people have already put them in the playoff discussion, but the season has just entered December, and a lot of things can happen in the coming months. Hopefully, if they can continue to get better, it could look like a reasonable possibility.