Pacers Taking the Spotlight During Tough Two-Week Stretch

The weather was the most exciting part of the Patriots versus Bears game on Sunday in Chicago. Luckily for the Pacers and Bulls, they will be playing inside the United Center for Monday night’s game in this Central Division showdown.

This will be the start to a grueling 15-day schedule that features seven games, against some of the best teams in the league. Of the six teams they will face, at least five of them look like playoff teams.

Only the Cavaliers look like a team that might not make it, but stranger things have happened. The Pacers will square off with the Bulls, Lakers, Cavs, Celtics, Hornets, Grizzlies and the Celtics again during this rough December month. Luckily for the Pacers, they will have five of these seven games at home in Conseco Fieldhouse.

The games are spread out relatively well, and after the game in Chicago on Monday, they will host the defending champion Lakers, whom they beat last month in L.A. The Lakers will surely have revenge on their mind. There is no way they will allow the Pacers to sweep them during the season.

The Pacers will get another game in at home against the Cavaliers on Wednesday before having to head to Boston for a game on Sunday afternoon. After that game, Indiana will return home to play their next three games. Christmas will come between these games, so the team will get to spend the Christmas holiday at home.

During this portion of the schedule, the Pacers will be in the spotlight more than what they are accustomed to. The game Monday night against the Bulls will be on NBA TV, and their game in Boston on Dec. 19 will be one of only four games scheduled for Sunday afternoon all season.

The Indianapolis Colts will be hosting a crucial game at home at the same time as the Pacers game in Boston, so the focus of the city will obviously be on the football game. Rightfully so though, because basically, it is a playoff game, whichever team wins is likely going to represent the AFC South in the playoffs, while the loser will have a very unlikely chance of reaching the postseason.

Normally for these kind of situations (two important games at the same time for the Colts and Pacers) the best solution is a sports bar, where both games are on. With the weather we have been having as of late, I think I’m just going to go with the split screen for this one.

It’s been awhile since we have had two important games at the same time both involving the Colts and Pacers. Obviously the Colts game is more important, but I love watching the Pacers play Boston, I think they give them some intriguing matchup problems.

Looking at the teams they will be facing during these seven games, it will be important that they focus on their defense, because all of these teams have stars that can light it up on the offensive end.

With the Bulls, the focus must be on stopping Derrick Rose. He is the engine that runs this team. If they can somehow limit his drives to the basket, or get him in foul trouble, that will go a long way in having a chance to win this one.

Carlos Boozer is returning to form, which could mean trouble for the Pacers. Not sure how Coach O’Brien will play him, probably a mixture of McRoberts and Hansbrough. If he gets it going early, he could really put the Pacers in a big hole.

The focus in the Lakers game will obviously be Kobe. They want him to take a lot of shots though. As strange as that sounds, the Lakers are much better when everyone is involved and the load is spread around.

If nobody else is hitting and Kobe has to take 35 shots, the Lakers usually lose, just like they did when Indiana went to L.A. last month. I don’t expect the Pacers to be there in the fourth quarter in this one, but still, a split with the defending champions for the regular season isn’t bad.

The Cavaliers game will be interesting because there isn’t really one guy that you plan to stop. They are the definition of “a team” in the NBA. One night someone could carry the work load, then the next night it is someone else.

This is dangerous because they have guys who are capable of taking over games on any night. Mo Williams, J.J. Hickson, Antawn Jamison, Daniel Gibson, the list goes on and on. The Pacers better not overlook this team because they are more dangerous than people give them credit for.

In the two games with Boston, it would appear that the guy they must contain would be Kevin Garnett. While I do think he will give us a lot of problems, I think the main focus has to be on Rajon Rondo.

Similar to the Rose situation in Chicago, Rondo is truly the engine behind this team. He has more toys to play with than Rose does, but that’s not the point. Rondo can create easy shots for anyone, and he is very underrated as a defender.

If they can somehow slow him down during their two games against the Celtics, they may be able to handle the other three guys. (Wouldn’t it be ironic if Jermaine O’Neal can’t play in the game at Conseco?)

Clearly the focus is on Chris Paul in the game against the Hornets. Darren Collison will get to go up against his mentor from last season and see if he can show him a thing or two. I think Indiana should be more concerned with David West.

West is a silent assassin on the floor. He can easily hang 30 and 12 on you before you realize it. The key to stopping this will be limiting his shot selection.

He loves that high post jump shot, and for some reason, teams allow him to get that shot anytime he wants. If they can get him out of that area and make him somewhat uncomfortable, they have a decent change at this one.

When the Grizzlies come to town the day after Christmas, we will see an interesting battle down low with Marc Gasol and Roy Hibbert. Roy shut his brother down in L.A. last month, but Marc is better than people give him credit for. That will be one of the best battles on the floor.

They should also be worried about Rudy Gay though. He is one of the best rising young stars in the game today, and he can explode at any time. The Grizzlies are actually a very good team, just flying under the radar right now.

The Pacers are right at .500 with an 11-11 record on the season. It will be interesting to see if they can get over .500 after this 15-day stretch is over with. I think if they can win four of the seven games, that would be quite an accomplishment.

It will help that most of the games are at home, but the fans need to fuel this team, especially in the third and early fourth quarters, where the team sometimes becomes too relaxed.

The defense is really going to be tested in these next couple of weeks. They are ranked near the top in most statistical categories, but the season is still young.

The schedule doesn’t get much easier after that, but if they still have everyone healthy, they will have no excuses. It’s time for this team to play the way are capable of playing.

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