Road Warriors: Analyzing the First West Coast Trip for the Indiana Pacers

G. HealyCorrespondent IIJanuary 16, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Danny Granger #33 of the Indiana Pacers steals the ball from Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second quarter at Staples Center on November 28, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Pacers defeated the Lakers 95-92. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The Indiana Pacers are loving life right now. They are playing good basketball and are off to their best start in nearly 10 years.

Sitting at 9-3 on the year, and coming off of two solid victories over the Raptors and Celtics, they embark on their first west coast trip of the season.

Over the next week, their schedule shapes up like this:

Wed, Jan 18: @Sacramento

Fri, Jan 20: @Golden State

Sun, Jan 22: @LA Lakers 

The Pacers have had trouble out West over the past few seasons. While they are a young, up-and-coming franchise, they will have to prove they can go on a road trip and maintain their top level of play before they can consider themselves elite.

The Pacers have shown they can win at home this season. Going 5-0 thus far is impressive, but the next two weeks see the Pacers playing six out of seven games on the road. This west coast trip not only starts this tough stretch, it will set the tone for the next two weeks.

Sacramento is off to a rough start. They are currently 4-9 and in last place in the Pacific division. While they don't have the best record, I feel as though they have had a much tougher schedule through the first 13 games than the Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers can beat the Kings, but they are going to have to show up and put together a solid game plan while executing it properly. It will be important to start their three-game trip to California on a positive note, as this game will set the tone for the tough two-week road trip.

The Golden State Warriors are another team off to a bad start. They are currently 4-8 and are on a short east coach road trip heading into their Friday night matchup with the Pacers. This will be somewhat of an advantage for the Pacers. They will most certainly get rid of their jet lag before Friday, yet the Warriors have to play in New Jersey Wednesday before returning back to California.

The Pacers will encounter their former point guard Mark Jackson for the first time as a head coach. I am certain this game will be meaningful on many levels, and I'm sure Jackson would love to pull out a win against this solid Pacers team. 

Mark Jackson has his team looking to change their fortunes. They are fighting for last place in the Pacific division with the Kings, and a win against a hot team like the Pacers is the kind of victory that can build momentum. 

The Pacers will look to post two victories prior to heading into their toughest matchup of the trip on Sunday evening. While the Pacers have had some success playing the Lakers in Los Angeles, winning their only contest there last year, they understand this will be one of their toughest challenges of the season to date. 

The Lakers are currently 9-5 and sitting alone atop the Pacific division. Going into their Sunday night matchup with the Pacers, they encounter a string of tough games. They will face Miami, Dallas and Orlando this week. 

If the Lakers come away with a few victories, the Pacers could be walking into a confident Lakers team that has, at times, played sloppily this season. 

The Pacers will look to establish themselves on this road trip. While they aren't playing top-tier teams, proving they can win games they should win, and that they can do it on the road, is something they will have to do as they reestablish themselves as an Eastern Conference power.

Their match-up Sunday Night at 9:30PM EST with the Lakers, is shaping up to be a heck of a game to close the week out with.