Passion, Pride, Pacers: Their Push to Become the Beasts of the East
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The Indiana Pacers are back. Or at least that's how it seems this year.
The Indianapolis club has been a roll recently, winning 11 of their last 12, and picking up wins against quality teams like Philadelphia, New York, and most notably Oklahoma City. But with no standouts or major all-stars, how is this team doing it?
The answer: They're playing like a team.
Let's face it, the Pacers took a major step back when "Elder Statesmen" Reggie Miller left. Struggling to make the most of the drafts and build team cohesion, Indiana basketball hit a pretty big speed bump.
The team wasn't down and out for too long, however. After failing to make the playoffs in 2010, the Pacers squeaked into the playoffs as the 8th seed and took the Bulls to a five game series that, admittedly, could have gone a little longer.
This year, the Pacers are currently in position to snag the No. 3 seed, a feat that even the most savvy analysts couldn't have predicted. They've got their act together, and they're finally starting to look like a team that could go deep in the playoffs.
Let's have a look at the run that's gotten them to the point.
The Pacers had a pretty average record heading in to February, and a five game losing streak certainly didn't help. The streak ended there, but Indiana continued to play streaky basketball, immediately going on a six game winning streak followed by another four game losing streak. It started to look as though January's early success had been a fluke.
In March, the Pacers went just 8-9, making their chances for a high seed look even more remote. But April showers seemed to bring Indiana some great luck and they've lost just one game this month, an 86-72 Boston Celtics loss at Bankers Life in Indy. Since then, the Pacers are on an eight game winning streak and are up four games on Boston for the three seed. All is well in Indiana, and Pacers basketball certainly seems to be back.
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And perhaps most satisfying about that resurgence is the way the Pacers have orchestrated it. Indiana doesn't boast a Kobe Bryant or Derrick Rose level talent, but they trust each other and play solid team basketball. 2009 All-Star Danny Granger's nearly 19 points a night and 2012 All-Star reserve Roy Hibbert's 13 points and 9 rebounds per game don't hurt either.
The Pacers are a pretty high scoring ball club, averaging around 97 points per game. The problem, though, is that their opponents average 94. We've seen the Pacers win and lose close games, and come playoff time it's all about who can close it out.
They proved they can run with the Thunder, but they've also proved they can't against the Wizards. It would certainly behoove Indy to develop a bit more consistency heading into the postseason.
The addition of Leandro Barbosa brought another shooter to the team, something the Pacers desperately needed. And with six players averaging 10 or more points per game (and two more that average just above nine), the Pacers are a force to be reckoned with.
We'll see just how much of one next month.
Contact me on Twitter: @scott_stewart3
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