For the Struggling Pacers, Here Comes the Real Test

It was all roses, candy canes and puppy kisses for the Pacers when they were “turning things back around.” After dropping four straight games, they pulled out of a Goose-from-Top Gun-looking tailspin and managed to get back to winning.

Sure, they dropped a bunch of games in a row, but those were losses to the Warriors (at home), Bobcats (on the road), Mavericks (road), and Rockets (road). Those are all quality teams, and three of those Ls came away from the friendly confines of Indianapolis. Besides, after the skid, the Pacers matched that streak with a four-game run on victories.

Who did they beat? Well, the historically bad 76ers (twice), a hapless Celtics team that plays nobody threatening over 6’9″, and a Pistons team that lost its best player midway through the game.

Did they at least destroy these awful excuses for basketball teams? Well, no, each game was close late and Indiana even trailed by 25 against the Pistons before coming back to pull off the second-biggest comeback seen in the NBA this year.

Then what happened? They embarrassed themselves pretty badly on national television against the Knicks early in a game, before doing a bit of a comeback only to fall short and play disgusting offense down the stretch.

So …

Really, we barely have any idea if the Pacers are particularly good anymore. We haven’t see them play top-notch hoops for any 48-minutes stretch, and there are signs that deeper, more insidious issues than bad Xs and Os might be circling the locker room.

At least the team is admitting to its problems now rather than sweeping them under the rug. Even George Hill knows it’s been a while since the team was playing like we know it can.

If they weren’t already, things are about to get real.

The Pacers play the Bulls tonight at home but then they have to fly their awful offense to Memphis after the game to play the second night of a back-to-back tomorrow against one of the league’s best defenses. The Grizzlies have also won eight of their last 10 games.

Then it’s off to Chicago on Monday, back home to face Miami on Wednesday before traveling to the nation’s capital to face Washington on Friday. A small respite seems to appear next, but even their Sunday game against the lowly Cavaliers (probably without Kyrie Irving) is a road game during the afternoon. Still, that is the one game on the near-term schedule that should be an easy win. The next night though? Against the Spurs? Will be harder.

To sum up, that five of the Pacers’ next seven games against very good teams, plus a road game against the Wizards, which are only 5-5 in their last 10 and just over .500 for the year but have John Wall amongst other talent.

Nothing like a test by fire, I guess.

Right now, the Pacers have reached a fork in the road of what once looked like a possible title season. It’s hard to say exactly what lies ahead. But by the end of this brutal stretch of schedule, we’ll have a good idea of which road the have taken.

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