The Pacers are seriously good, and people around the country are starting to take notice. I wrote at the beginning of the season that the Pacers deserved to be in the national spotlight because they play an entertaining brand of basketball, whether it’s a high octane offense like we’ve seen over the last few weeks, or the aggressive, hardnosed defense that they showed us during the first couple months of the season. It seems like the Pacers are popping up in everywhere these days. No SportsCenter is complete without the Pacers receiving some sort of accolades. When it comes to spots talk radio, I’ve a full-fledged addict. Can’t get enough of it. And it doesn’t help my condition when I hear my favorite team being mentioned on national syndicates.
Over the last two weeks, the Pacers have gotten attention for a myriad of reasons, both good and bad. We’ll start with the bad. Last night the Pacers found themselves in a game that will be remembered for the technical fouls more than the final score. In what ended up being an average game for everyone not named “Steph”, the Pacers made headlines because of reasons they may not be proud of. Roy Hibbert and Warriors’ center David Lee got into an altercation that resulted in one game suspensions for both big men. Both Golden State and Indiana will be without their centers against good teams. The Warriors are facing off against Lee’s old team, the Knicks, tonight, while the Pacers host the #3 team in the West, the LA Clippers. Both teams will sorely miss their man in the middle.
That’s the bad. Luckily, the good greatly outweighs the bad. As Jennifer Lawrence taught us, everything has a silver lining (I haven’t seen it, but I’m probably right). Last night’s fight highlighted a characteristic of this Pacer team that might be a bigger factor in the Pacers’ success than any one player’s contribution. While it was a fight that was started by Roy Hibbert, the rest of the Players on the court were involved in a split second. What people will remember is Steph Curry’s tiny ass being hurled like a rag doll, but what I liked was George Hill and Lance Stephenson not wasting a second to get involved to help their teammate.
Another positive for this team has been the return of their emotional leader. With Danny Granger back on the floor, the Pacers are a much better team. They are more talented, and more dialed in to the competitive nature of the game. This team seems to feed off Granger’s resiliency, and has rallied behind his efforts to get back on the floor. When he finally hit his first shot of the season the bench went wild like they’d just clinched the division. Despite all the talk about whether he’ll start or come off the bench, the Pacers haven’t lost any focus. Some teams would let all the attention turn into a distraction, but not Indiana. We’ve seen the Pacer succeed at every facet of their schedule except against good teams on the road. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the emotional lift Granger provides be the catalyst for the Pacers to see road success.
The return of a seasoned vet, even when coupled with an outstanding show of camaraderie, cannot overcome the importance of results. The last five games have been absolutely amazing for the Pacers. Five straight wins by double digits is nothing to sneeze at. I understand that the quality of the competition was suspect, at best, but you can’t blame a team for beating the teams on their schedule. The Pacers only play 4 games against playoff teams over the next three weeks, so don’t expect this successful trend to taper off. Look closely at tomorrow’s contest against the Clips, and the March 10 game at Miami to see how well the Pacers really stack up against the best teams in the league. This could be very, very exciting.