The Indiana Pacers couldn’t put away the Chicago Bulls last night, and still have a good lead on them for first place in the Central Division. But they did drop by percentage points in the overall Eastern Conference standings into third place. The Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, and Pacers are only separated by a few games, so it’s very important to pick up wins. Right now if the season ended, the Pacers would be playing the Bulls, who they did win the season series against, but that would be a tough first round match up. With Derrick Rose out, Joakim Noah out, the Pacers should have been in control of this game. But they let it slip away and just looked out of focus at the end. They made a small run to at least give them a shot at tying the game. That last series wasn’t well played out though. That’s still a downfall for this team, finding that right play to win or tie a game. I don’t know if that will ever become better as I just feel like it’s a weakness for Coach Frank Vogel, and the Pacers don’t have that “closer” type person. I could see David West fitting that mold a bit, but even then he would need to be properly set up to score.
Now the attention turns to this coming week as the team looks to get back on track for the playoffs. First up is the Atlanta Hawks, who the Pacers struggle with time to time. I don’t know what exactly it is about that team, maybe some sort of athleticism the Pacers can’t match. But the Hawks have got better of the Pacers in most games recently. Time to turn that around, and playing at home should help out the Blue and Gold. They’ve won by double figures in the last three home games, so hopefully that’s a trend that will continue.
Then comes another West Coast Trip. Games against the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, and Los Angeles Clippers are on the horizon. I think with that trip going 2-2 would be fine enough to keep the division lead. But if the Pacers struggle and go 0-4, there could be some trouble in the standings. I can see wins against the Mavericks and Suns. Who knows what might happen in the Rockets game? The Pacers got a ten point win last time out against the Rockets. But that Rockets team could come out firing as they’re trying to protect their playoff position. The Pacers will have to be ready for that.
Then there’s the rematch with the Los Angeles Clippers, where Roy Hibbert will get to play. I think he was greatly missed as the Clippers got so much done in the paint last time against the Pacers. Maybe life in the paint won’t be as easy with Hibbert there. There’s not much answer for Chris Paul as well, so the Pacers will have to stop everyone else. Let Paul get his points, but try to stop his distribution. Make sure they get to the open guys that Paul will be dishing to. I expect a good playoff like atmosphere for this one.
The number for the Pacers is still 8, which means any combination of Pacers wins and Bulls losses equaling that equal the division crown for the Pacers. If they can put together a good week, maybe that number gets achieved this week. I think it is still a couple of weeks away, but that division title is so close for the team, now they just need to get it.