Indiana Pacers' Schedule Breakdown and Record Predictions for February
The Indiana Pacers' schedule breakdown and record predictions for February are also an insight into how far this once-mighty team has fallen.
At 17-32 through Feb. 2, Indy is 15 games below .500 and is on pace to miss the playoffs for the first time in five seasons. The last time that happened was during 2009-10. Back then, forward Danny Granger was the Pacers' franchise player. His supporting cast included the likes of Troy Murphy, Travis Diener, Solomon Jones, Josh McRoberts and Brandon Rush.
The result was a 32-50 disaster.
These Pacers are not far from duplicating that dubious feat. Injuries, constant lineup changes and a lack of firepower on offense (26th overall at just 95.0 points per game) have all played a part in making Indiana merely a shade of what it was a season ago.
Make no mistake, the Pacers can and should be playing better than they have been, even without George and with only half of Hill. Their chemistry is understandably lacking with injuries that have run through the roster like a flu virus, but that doesn't explain the habit of sluggish starts and lack of execution in crucial moments.
The Pacers have 33 games left. This is their last-ditch stand. Winning as many games as possible is paramount if they want to make the playoffs and pull off a few more surprises.
It all starts with the month of February.
Week of Feb. 1-8
The first week of February can be dubbed as "Retribution Week" for the Indiana Pacers.
Two of their three opponents during this stretch dealt them stinging losses on back-to-back nights in January: the Detroit Pistons and the Charlotte Hornets.
The Pistons, behind Andre Drummond's putback with just 0.3 seconds left in the game, edged the Pacers, 98-96, on Jan 16. As for the Hornets, they held the Pacers to just three points in overtime, to prevail, 80-71, in a low-scoring affair one night later.
Detroit has lost three of its last four games since point guard Brandon Jennings tore his Achilles tendon during the third quarter of a 101-86 road loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 24. The Pacers figure to have an easier time against the Pistons without Jennings, who scorched them for 37 points last month.
Jennings' scoring spree and Mo Williams' 52-point barrage on Jan. 13 prove that Indiana's perimeter defense leaves much to be desired. Indy needs to clamp down on former Pacer D.J. Augustin, who has averaged 21 points in Jennings' absence.
The Pacers should beat Detroit and Charlotte to gain some headway in the Eastern Conference standings. However, it's hard to imagine them beating a Cleveland Cavaliers juggernaut that has won 10 games in a row.
Predicted record: 2-1
Week of Feb. 9-15
- Feb. 9 vs. San Antonio Spurs
- Feb. 11 at New Orleans Pelicans
The Indiana Pacers will enter the All-Star break going up against the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans. These are two teams from the Southwest Division, the most competitive in the league (as of Feb. 2, the Pelicans, who have a 25-22 record, are in last place).
Indiana actually had the Spurs on their heels during the first half of their Nov. 26 matchup. The Pacers led, 55-50, at the break before the defending NBA champs clawed their way back in the second half behind the exploits of aging shooting guard Manu Ginobili.
As for the Spurs, they are coming off an impressive month of January when they went 10-4. San Antonio doesn't have a dominant scorer. Its leading point man is former Pacers draft pick Kawhi Leonard, who is averaging 15.6 points per game. This is an efficient team that relies on fundamentals, veteran savvy and excellent coaching to gain an edge.
The key in the matchup against the Spurs will be Roy Hibbert against Tiago Splitter. Hibbert, who averaged 11.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 0.9 assists in January, needs to assert himself down low in order for the Pacers to win.
On the other hand, the Pacers have their work cut out for them in trying to contain NBA Defensive Player of the Year candidate Anthony Davis, who is averaging 24.5 points, 10.4 points and 2.86 blocks per game for the New Orleans Pelicans.
By losing these two games, Indiana desperately needs the All-Star break as a respite.
Predicted record: 0-2
Week of Feb. 16-22
During the week of Feb. 16-22, the Indiana Pacers will go up against one of the NBA's worst teams (Philadelphia 76ers) and one of the best (Golden State Warriors).
It wasn't a surprise when Indy lost to Golden State by 15 points on the road on Jan. 7. In that game, Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson was Reggie Miller-esque in exploding for 40 points. He simply served notice to everybody he's one of the league's best at his position.
What was a surprise was when the Sixers beat the Pacers by one point three days later. Behind Roy Hibbert's 22 points, Indiana did a good job in holding off Philadelphia by 12 points during its season opener on Oct. 29. This time around, the Pacers missed 12 free throws, allowing the Sixers to escape with the narrow win.
We knew the Pacers wouldn't be good this season. The prospect of losing two games to the Philadelphia 76ers, perennial doormats, would make Indy a really bad basketball team.
The Pacers have too much pride at stake to let that happen. However, the same can't be said about their Feb. 22 game against the Warriors, whose run-and-gun style will prove to be too much to handle. Expect All-Stars Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry to have a big game against Indiana.
Predicted record: 1-1
Week of Feb. 23-28
- Feb. 24 at Oklahoma City Thunder
- Feb. 27 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Indiana Pacers will face perennial MVP candidates Kevin Durant and LeBron James to cap off their Feb. 2015 schedule.
The Thunder have battled injury issues as well. Durant, last season's MVP, has played in just 22 games due to foot and toe injuries. His sidekick, All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, missed 14 games of his own early in the season due to a broken hand.
Oklahoma City, by virtue of its 23-24 (.489) record, has held up better than the Pacers. In fact, the Thunder are just four games behind the Phoenix Suns for the eighth playoff spot in the West. They enter February having lost four of their last five games, including a 100-92 loss to the 10-38 New York Knicks on Jan. 28.
For the Pacers to win, they must contain the Thunder on the boards. Thanks in large part to Serge Ibaka (7.6 RPG), Durant (6.7 RPG), Westbrook (5.9 RPG) and Kendrick Perkins (5.7 RPG), Oklahoma City is the top-ranked rebounding team in the league with an average of 46.7 per game.
As for the Cavaliers, who are 10th in the league in offense at an average of 101.8 points per game, Indiana simply cannot allow them to get off to a fast start like they did in Cleveland's 109-97 win on Nov. 29.
The Pacers shot just 39.3 percent during that game. According to NBA.com, Indiana has shot an average of 41.4 percent from the field in its 32 losses as opposed to 46.3 percent in its 17 wins. Needless to say, the Pacers must do a credible job on offense if they are to contain James and the Cavaliers.
This won't be an easy task.
Predicted record: 1-1
The Final Say
The Indiana Pacers enter the month of February with a chance to gain a leg up on the Eastern Conference standings. With a 17-32 (.347) record, they are 4.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Charlotte Hornets (21-27).
With the exception of Lavoy Allen's right-knee injury and PG-13's broken leg, the Pacers are the healthiest they have been all season long. Recurring injury issues have gotten in the way of Indy's progress and chemistry. The team's current record speaks volumes of its impending fate: the lottery.
Nonetheless, 8Points9Seconds.com's Jared Wade believes Indy still has a puncher's chance of sneaking into the playoffs. The other teams involved in the chase are the Charlotte Hornets (21-27), Miami Heat (21-26), Brooklyn Nets (19-28), Detroit Pistons (18-30), Boston Celtics (16-30) and Orlando Magic (15-36):
With such a pileup in the 'chase' for the eighth seed, any team that goes on, say, a six-game winning streak will rocket up the standings and set themselves up for a postseason berth.
Just look at the Pistons, which were 5-23 on Christmas morning before waiving Josh Smith and going on an 11-2 run. They shot up from 13th to ninth in the East standings.
So expecting 38 wins for the eighth seed is probably too high. Maybe the 7th seed finishes with 38, but the eighth seed is more likely to come in around 36 wins.
The Pacers can get to 36 wins by finishing the year 19-15 (.559) in their final 34 games of the year. This is certainly doable if David West, George Hill and Roy Hibbert are healthy the rest of the way.
Don't expect the Pacers to go on a tear in February. To imagine them doing a complete turnaround from last season (when they won just 16 of their final 30 games after the All-Star break) is a far-fetched possibility.
Predicted record for February: 4-5
Note: Unless otherwise specified, all stats are current as of Feb. 3 and are courtesy of ESPN.com.