This is the most important road trip of the season for the Pacers

A statement win against the Detroit Pistons, is only the beginning of what will be the most important road trip of the season.

Indiana Pacers v Detroit Pistons
Indiana Pacers v Detroit Pistons / Nic Antaya/GettyImages

Starting in the Midwest in Detroit, making their way all through California between the Bay and Los Angeles, to heading back to the Midwest for a game vs Chicago, the Pacers are on a road trip so important that it can mean playoffs vs play-in. The Pacers are currently sitting at 39-31 which is good for sixth in the East, only being a half-game above the Heat and 76ers.

Their first game vs Detroit was a complete success, as Haliburton showed up and focused more on hitting the paint and used his playmaking abilities to continue drawing double teams and finding open teammates. He would finish with 20 points on an efficient 69% shooting and had nine assists and four steals.

Pascal Siakam showed up once again dropping a Pacers-high 25 points and grabbing eight rebounds. The bench was the story of the game as they had 50 points, led by 13 from T.J. McConnell, and a 10-point and 11-rebound performance from Isaiah Jackson. The 122-103 win came at a perfect time.

The next three games are all against championship-contending Western Conference teams. Although the Lakers and Warriors are in the play-in hunt right now, they are both teams who can dominate when the playoffs arrive.

With that being said, both teams will be a huge challenge for the Pacers since on February 8, at home vs the Warriors, the Pacers lost 131-109 where Stephen Curry had 42 points and hit 11 threes. If the Pacers want to beat the Warriors at Chase Center where the Warriors are 18-18, they will want to lockdown defend Curry and make sure Jonathan Kuminga and Klay Thompson don't get on a roll early.

The Pacers will face hungry teams in Los Angeles

After that game, they will head to arena where they play the Lakers for the first time since the loss in the In-Season Tournament Final. Lebron James and Anthony Davis will look to dominate the paint on both offense and defense, and the way to prevent that is to box out these two Hall-of-Famers better and make sure they cannot tip the ball out to the perimeter where they have three-point threats, D'Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves. The Pacers have learned to mature more as a defense since the IST and will hope to hold the Lakers to less than 110 as they have to the last three teams they have played.

Perhaps the hardest matchup in this stretch will be against the Clippers. Who, even without Russell Westbrook, are still sitting in fourth in the West and first in the Pacific. One of the deepest rosters in the league, The Clippers defeated the Pacers early in the season 151-127, where they scored 37, 40, 37, and 37 in each quarter.

A 35-point and nine-assist game from Harden, 28 from Leonard, and 27 from Paul George put the Pacers away early. This is one of those games where the Pacers will have to get going early if they at least want to maintain balance in this game. Haliburton, Siakam, Myles Turner, and Aaron Nesmith must all be on their A-game on both sides of the ball to get this win.

When it comes to the Eastern Conference standings, it is very important that the Bulls game ends in a win for the Pacers, as not only are they division rivals, but are also fighting for a play-in spot. The Bulls are 2-1 vs the Pacers with one of those being the 132-129 matchup where Demar DeRozan dropped 46 points, including a game-tying shot at the end of regulation. A win vs the Bulls will help the Pacers' chance of making it straight into the playoffs if any tiebreaker rules were to apply.

The importance of this road trip is unlike any other, as this could be a make-or-break stretch for the playoffs. In the East, there is a tight race from sports four through eight as there is only a three-and-a-half game difference between those five spots. The Knicks, Magic, Pacers, 76ers, and Heat will be all playing to finish out the last three playoff spots and avoid the play-in since teams like the Celtics, Bucks, and Cavaliers have a desirable lead over these teams.

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The Pacers have a roller coaster of a schedule overall with games against the Thunder, Cavaliers, and two vs the Lakers still to be played. They also have two vs the Nets and games against the Heat, Hawks, and Raptors.