The Pacers have a gauntlet of a schedule coming up. The play the next four games this week on the road, covering much of the country. Not only that, they play a handful of playoff favorites and will do so without their franchise superstar as well as at least one more starter out. Does this sound like an optimal situation?
The Pacers have had a rough couple of games this past week after losing Haliburton to injury and have struggled to close out games, even ones they are competitive in. Not only that, they appear more prone to rookie-like mistakes without Haliburton orchestrating the offense. As good as Mathurin, Nembhard, and Nesmith have been, they are still young players.
Let’s take a look at the week ahead.
Monday: Pacers @ Milwaukee
Milwaukee hasn’t been as good as projected, by many think they will rev up in time for the playoffs to start. They are currently 27-16 and sitting at 3rd in the eastern conference. They have the 23rd offensive rating, 3rd defensive rating, and the 11th net rating. They are 17th in pace. Expect them to try and slow the game down a bit, whereas the Pacers will try to make it a track meet. While we think the Pacers could remain competitive for the game, unless the majority of the starters are out for the Bucks, expect them to have too much firepower.
Our prediction: Milwaukee wins relatively comfortably at home.
Wednesday: Pacers @ Oklahoma City
The Thunder don’t boast an amazing record, but what they do boast, is a surprising fringe MVP candidate in Shai Gilgeous Alexander who is averaging almost 31 points a game to go along with 5 rebounds and 6 assists. The Thunder have an overall record of 20-23, and are expected to be in play for a lottery pick again this year. They have the 17th offensive rating, 11th defensive rating, and the 14th net rating in the NBA. The Pacers, even without Haliburton, should make this a relatively even matchup. Given the Pacers would likely be coming off a significant losing streak, we feel the Pacers could rally a win in this game.
Our prediction: Pacers pull off a tight win on the road.
Friday: Pacers @ Denver
Denver is one of, if not the best team, in the NBA. They are 1st in the Western conference, have the 2nd best offensive rating and the 4th best net rating in the NBA. MVP candidate Nikola Jokic is playing out of his mind.
Our prediction: Pacers lose big in Denver.
Saturday: Pacers @ Phoenix
Phoenix was expected to compete for the Western conference this season, but hasn’t looked the part. On top of that, they have had several key injuries. They have the 11th best offense, 14th best defensive rating, and the 10th net rating. They play an extremely slow brand of basketball at 26th in pace. We think the Pacers might be able to speed up Phoenix into playing Pacers’ style basketball. If so, this could turn into a shoot out.
Our prediction: Pacers lose a heartbreaker in the desert.