I’ve maintained the belief that the Pacers could not only still make the playoffs but also turn this mess around to the point that they might even seem like a decent basketball team come April. Sometimes when I type that or say it out loud it sounds completely foolish.
But there is one real reason for this.
vs San Antonio
@ LA Clippers
@ Golden State
That was their January schedule prior to the Conseco beat down they gave the Nets.
The only three non-playoff teams on that 11-team list are Philly, Golden State and the Clips — and the Blake Griffin Show has made LA’s JV squad into a legitimate team that’s playing excellent ball of late so we can’t even really count them as cupcake city. Basically, Indiana started off the month playing four excellent teams and the rather-good Knicks with a road game in Philly being their only “rest” game. Then they had to go on a four-game West Coast road trip, which is not easy no matter how good you are. Then they get the nice home-coming gift of Dwight Howard and Orlando. Welcome home, guys.
There is no excuse for losing 9 of 11 games — particularly when you lose playing as poorly as Indiana did for much of that stretch. But that said. if a team is ever going to start spiraling the drain irreversibly for a stretch, you might expect a brutal schedule like this to be part of the equation.
Stomping the Nets doesn’t change anything. This was a very nice win that I think this team desperately needed. Mike Dunleavy Jr. scored a franchise record 236 points on 87-for-23 shooting and Paul George played basketball like the harp of an angel sounds. They can each be proud of those accomplishments.
But until they can do this (well … not this … but win) a few more times, they can’t think anything is better. This was essentially a no-win game: you lose to the Nets at home and you’re an even bigger laughingstock; you beat the Nets at home and of course you beat the Nets at home. They’re the Nets.
Tomorrow is another tough one in Chicago, but Derrick Rose is fortunately a little under the weather with some ulcers so maybe he will take the second night of a back-to-back off. Then it’s Toronto, @Cleveland, Portland, @New Jersey, @Miami, Charlotte, @Milwaukee, vs Miami and @Detroit leading into the All-Star break.
That’s not very daunting, and the team currently sits a game and half back of the 8th seed at 17-26.
If they can indeed start turning this around, they should go at least .500 over those next 1o games and maybe even win 6 out of 10. Who knows? After this blowout, I’m feeling irrationally generous.
The rough stretch of schedule is officially over.
Now we see what these guys are about.