This was an up and down week that started on the upside and ended on a downside. Two good home wins against playoff caliber teams ended with two losses to the New York Knicks on a back to back. Hard to tell what was wrong in those losses to the Knicks, but the Pacers were not the same team they were just a few days earlier.
The Pacers played the Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday night coming off four losses against the Bulls, Hawks, Heat and Magic. Just a rough stretch of games that saw the Pacers in some of the games, and not able to finish the jobs. So getting a win at home was important to get back on the winning track.
They took care of business against the Trailblazers as Lou Amundson had a career night with his 21 points. That’s right Lou Amundson, a guy the Pacers traded Brandon Rush for. How often do you think he will get player of the game? He brought a lot of energy to the team, and the Pacers won Tuesday night 92-75.
The defense was excellent in that game as they held Portland to shooting under 32%, while the offense shot just around 50% for the game. That’s going to win some games if you play the right way.
Next up came the Philadelphia 76ers, a team just ahead of the Pacers, and possible playoff match up. This was a good test to see how the Pacers could fare against the 76ers, and they once again got the job done.
They were able to get 20 points from Danny Granger who was one of five players in double figures. They were able to beat a team with a winning record and show they can be a contender in the East. This could be a good match up in the playoffs for the Pacers, and one they could take advantage of to finally win a playoff series since 2004. Long time coming for this team to be a member of the playoffs after those runs in the 1990′s and early 2000′s.
Then come this home and away series with the New York Knicks, where things fell apart. This was a Knicks team who fired their head coach midweek, and were able to tear apart Portland winning by 41 points. Then against the Pacers on Friday night, they built a lead of 31 at one point. The final score was 115-100, so it looks respectable, but like you hear the final score isn’t always a clear picture of the game.
Allowing the Knicks to shoot 50% for the game, and putting up 38 points in the third quarter gives you an idea where this game went wrong for the Pacers. It felt like the Knicks had a more aggressive feel to their team as well. The Pacers didn’t come out and match that intensity even after Danny Granger said that the games against the Knicks would be “winnable.”
As a fan coming into this series, I had to agree with Mr. Granger, but you don’t want to come out and say that to a team that’s been under performing. No need to add fuel to their fire, and that did it.
The Pacers made a better effort on Saturday night against the Knicks, but still came up on the losing end 102-88. A positive note to take from this game is Roy Hibbert scored 24 points, which is great to see. He’s a guy who needs to keep stepping up his game. He’ll score 24 points one night, and then 10 or less the next night. Time for him to demand the ball more and get the offense moving through him.
Maybe this game can get his momentum going and he can put together some good scoring nights and great rebounding nights.
Overall, a 2-2 week isn’t terrible, and the Pacers still sit in fifth place, but just a half game over Atlanta. They will need to string some wins together to keep this place or possibly move up and get a home playoff series. They can still reach that third spot in the East, which the Orlando Magic currently hold. How great would it be for this Pacers team to have a home playoff series? It’s been a long time coming, and that time is now.