Are the Pacers as Good as We Thought?

The Indiana Pacers haven’t beaten a .500 team since February 3. On that night, they showed up in Dallas and dismantled the reigning NBA Champs with second-year guard Paul George looking like the second coming of Michael Finley. As their least experienced starter hung 30 points, 9 boards, 5 assists and 5 steals on the Mavericks, it looked like the Pacers were a team that could legitimately beat any Eastern Conference team other than Miami or Chicago in the Playoffs. And with the way they played the Bulls in their first-round series last year? Who knows what might happen this May?

But after another loss to a good team last night in Atlanta, it is starting to look like the Pacers meteoric rise from the team that made the playoffs last year with a losing record to a borderline contender may have been based on unsustainable success not so dissimilar to Linsanity. From January 22 to February 3, Indiana went 12-4 despite playing 11 games on the road. They won in Boston, in Toronto, in Oakland, in Los Angeles (over the Lakers), in Chicago, in Orlando, in Minnesota and in Dallas. While that was a wonderful run that helped them compile the fifth best road record in the league as of today (12-9), it is starting to seem like it might have been an aberration during an NBA season that has seen seen many.

There is no reason for Pacers fans to panic. The fact is that this team did travel around the league and beat a lot of good teams on their home courts. You cannot erase that — not in the standings nor in this roster’s collective confidence. This Indiana team also still has better personnel, one through ten, than all but a few other Eastern Conference teams, even if they lack a truly elite player. And most important of all, the Pacers’ starting lineup has still performed at an elite level on both ends of the floor all year long (scoring 107.3 points per 100 possession while only giving up 95.1 points per 100 in more than 600 minutes).

But as the team continues to muddle through its current, brutal nine-game stretch of schedule that began Monday night in Chicago, it will be noteworthy to see if they can come out of the other side looking as rosy as they did going in. The next seven games are against Miami, Orlando, Portland, Philly, New York, New York and the Clippers. Only the Knicks, at 18-20 (but 10-5 over their past 15), are below .500.

So if, two weeks from now, we’re still talking about that February 3rd win over the Mavericks as being the Pacers’ last impressive victory, this team is going to seem a lot more ordinary than it has throughout most of this season. Minutes after Indiana completely out-classed the champs, Tim Donahue texted me “Is this for real?” We talked about it later that night, deciding that, ya know, geez, it might just be.

That could still be the case. But for anyone to continue to believe it, the Pacers are going to have to start beating some good teams again.

Tags: Dallas Mavericks Paul George

  • adam

    Yes & No. I still think they are as good as we thought, but the problem is, they haven’t played that way in what seems like weeks.Once they started being mentioned as a top 3 team, it seems they thought the rest of the season would come easy. They stopped defending & rebounding the way they were early on and the “smash mouth” style of play disappeared . It used to be the Pacers who were getting the extra tip-ins, extra offensive rebound, ect (that Atlanta seemed to get all of last night), so even when they shot below 40%, they were still squeaking out the wins.

    I think we still can be that team that beat Dal, LAL, Bulls but maybe a change in lineup will help light a fire. DC to the bench, maybe giving Pendegraph some of Tyler’s minutes will wake him up.

  • Alan

    Adam is right. DC has done nothing the past couple games and Tyler has actually done worse. Another thing that should come up is Roy. We need to feed him the ball more to get his confidence up, we won’t win when he’s getting man-handled by Zaza Pachulia. We are still a great team we just need some confidence and shake up the lineups.

  • richard

    its time for a trade. i think we should go for jamal crawford, he can create an his a good shooter, can give our bench a real scoring threat. give up aj price an hansborough an then bench collison, because he is too inconsistent an he always gets scorch by other opposing point guards, cant shoot well, not a good floor general, an spotty on defense. this is a new era of the nba, an its time for us to stop settling for mediocrisy an start getting players that are elite n that fill up bankers life.

  • Ronal Eugene is Right!!

    How good did you think they were? I thought they were a solid team who was capable of beating any team in the NBA on any given night while at the same time capable of losing to any team on any night. I still think that’s true and the effort the last two nights hasn’t changed anything. It has reinforced that they are not an elite team, but people were kidding themselves if they really thought they would be title contenders this early. They should still be a solid playoff team capable of winning a first round playoff series which has always been the ceiling this season. Last night just proved the point that as much as this team has improved they are still young and need to learn how to win these close games. That shot by Granger was absolutely horrible. There was no reason to force that shot with so much time left. I welcome using the cap space to absorb a contract, but I don’t like the idea of trading the core. Sure, Hansbrough is struggling, but you really want to trade him for a rental so that you’ll get a higher seed and still get destroyed by the Bulls or Heat in the second round? Dwight Howard isn’t coming here and he’s about the only player on the market right now that would take this inexperienced young core to the Eastern Finals and possibly beyond. Kaman isn’t doing it, Crawford isn’t doing it. Nice pieces, but they aren’t making Roy and George less timid or Granger more clutch. This team needs to grow and learn how to win these games, and slowly add pieces as they become available. Trading core pieces for rentals is not the way to go.

  • Benjamin Cornelius

    3 way trade

    Pacers trade Collison & D. Jones to Utah, and a pick
    trade Tyler & Lou to Grizzlies, and maybe a pick

    Utah sends Milsap & Devin Harris to Pacers

    Grizzlies send Mayo to Pacers

  • JRC

    I just want to echo REiR!!!’s sentiments – this team is right where I hoped they’d be. They are capable of beating any team (except, maybe Miami) on any given night. Think about that for a minute. That is NOT something I honestly could believe even last season. They can (and do) lose to anyone on any given night. However, there is no need to blow up the core now. Maybe if a trade opportunity opens up for one of the elite PGs in the offseason I’d take it. Otherwise, there is no rush. Let’s be patient, and make sure we can lock up Hibbert and Hill long term, and work towards getting some semblance of an “A-list” superstar (or, as close to that as possible). That is the only thing this team is really lacking right now.

  • Ronal Eugene is Right!!

    2 draft picks?? I don’t see that trade making the Pacers that much better, definitely not enought to warrant 2 draft picks. Do you really think the Pacers beat the Heat or Bulls after that trade?

  • Chris D.

    They’re still a 6 seed at best, but they could easily fall to 7, maybe 8. We’ve got some good players, but no one who can rise up and be a reliable game changer. Paul shows some promise. At least he has the spirit and backs down from no one. If Danny had half of Paul’s spunk, he’d be as good as any PF in the league…but he doesn’t. We’re still one big player away–probably a PG–and we knew that going in.

  • Joe B

    I do not think anyone was crowning the Pacers as a contender coming into this season, but there was discussion of the Pacers having an overall improvement based on Hill’s and West’s joining on the team which could push the Bulls and Heat in a series harder than last year’s run. That said, what the Pacers have done should be entirely expected rather than anything else: they have beaten good teams on the road and have lost to teams they should beat at home. This is exactly what one would expect from an improved team that has the talent to beat anyone more often than a majority of teams in the East, but is still a great point guard away from being a true contender.

  • Ian

    After the top 2, there is a huge dropoff. So the Pacers could be as good as we thought they were, and finish in the 3rd-4th spot, and still be not that great.

    Also remember a lot of smart people pointed out before the season that young teams with a consistent core from last season were going to start hot because of the lack of pre-season time and the lack of rest between games. Now that the veteran teams have played their way into shape and gotten used to new additions they are mostly playing better.

    The most troublesome element of the Pacers now is that their bench is so bad. This was supposed to be a 10-deep team and it’s looking more and more like a 6-deep team. Losing Dunleavy and McBobs and even Rush actually hurt us a lot more than people anticipated, because while we did get Hill, with Hans regressing, our bench basically consists of:
    3 point guards
    a oft-injured, rebounding/defense center
    two project ‘active big man’ types
    1 scoring PF who has lost all confidence

    There are no wings here, which is where you get most of your points in the NBA, and where you need defensive stoppers off the bench to slow down the other team’s wings.

  • Him

    The Pacers need a collective slap across the face, perhaps in radical roster change form, to show them that the team is serious about righting the ship. Do they suck? No. Are they underperforming? In 1.25 games, yes. Perhaps this is just a transition from playing “Charlotte sucks, we can be sloppy,” basketball to “The Bulls do not suck, mistakes are costly,” basketball. Either way, if it gets fixed soon, I’l be happy.

  • AMFinocchi

    First of all, after Orlando, none of the other teams seems a very difficult challange, except Philly, but is a home game, and is after some very winnable games. Portland isn’t nothig to be afraid, the Knicks are a lie (they got beaten by the Celtics in NY), and D. West can handle Griffin pretty well. The problem is that this team’s lack of motivation. They played with no heart in many of the games they’ve lost. And you can see it in the soft-unconcentrated defense, in the poor work in our glass, etc. And it’s the same roaster, there was no trade since the team that beat Chicago, LAL, Dallas, Orlando, etc. And the other problem I see apart from motivation, is Danny Granger. Sure, when he has a hot hand he can carry the team. But when he don’t, he takes bad choiced shots or miss the simple ones, and we lose a lot of possesions with him. Specially when we got a low-porcent shooting team. How we fix it? George Hill in, George as a SF, and Granger out as the sixth man. This way, we don’t waste so many possesions in missed shots; Danny wouldn’t have so much pressure and can win confidence; and Hill gives the team another brain and more movement, and a better percent 3-point shooter than Granger on court.

  • AMFinocchi

    Correction: I mentally swap Philly for LAC. But after Philly, until Pacers match again Miami, the can get 6 wins in a row. They’ll got to work pretty hard for them, but they can (as they can beat Portland and Philly and get a 8 game streak before seeing Miami).

  • AJ

    I agree that we have to move DC. I also proposed something including DC and Tyler to Utah for Harris and Milsap. DC and Tyler flourish in a pure PNR system, but we run something closer to what Sacto ran, where our bigs are highly-involved in the passing game, and balanced play is not only encouraged, but direly needed for success. I like that strategy, especially b/c that type of offense is harder to defend, and with Thibs mastering the defense of the PNR game, I think we need to go all in on that strategy. I trust Roy and DW as passers more than I do DC, Danny, and Paul, which is fine, but we need to have a Fisher/Bibby at the point to make it work.

  • Ian

    but we need to have a Fisher/Bibby at the point to make it work.

    Oh god I hope you mean the Fisher/Bibby from like 8 years ago lol

  • Alan

    Moving our best player to the bench is one of the worst ideas ive ever heard. I like the jazz trade but i doubt they give up harris and milsap. We need a PG and like someone said a slap in the face to wake them up and start playing like they can.

  • dwain

    ok here’s a dream trade:
    Roy an AJ(and maybe a pick) to LA for Howard and metta (metta then traded for Steve Nash) LA Gasol for Howard
    Pacers start
    yeah yeah i know…but i can dream can’t i…

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