News might be slow around here today and tomorrow as the Pacers get two days off until the big game with the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s been sold out for a while, and I can not wait to see how much better the Pacers will look against the Thunder. Last meeting, the Thunder got the best of the Blue and Gold. This time around, the Pacers get even. If the Pacers play as confident as they did out West, this game could be over in the third quarter. There’s just a different way that this team plays at home, and with a rocking crowd, that game will be something to see come Friday night. But what will the Pacers do in those two days off?
If I was running the team, I continue to fine tune things. Bring up the defensive intensity a bit so that it’s fully ready for that playoff run. Also, give the bench guys some more time to work together. Things are coming along much better there, but that’s truly the weakness of this team. When they come in and all the starters are out, it’s hard to find a true scoring option. Tyler Hansbrough has looked to become more confident with his scoring, so he would probably be the best option. With Tyler’s game, he needs the ball in the best position to score as well. D.J. Augustin has looked more confident in his three point shot, so as long as that continues to fall, the second unit will be fine. It’s important for them just to hold the water for the starters while they’re out. If there’s a lead, hold that lead or build upon it. If the team is down, work together to get in the game. There have been those instances, the bench has brought up the energy level, and helped get the Pacers back into a game. Come playoff time, that could be very important.
As far as starters go, I hope that Roy Hibbert continues to work on his shot. He’s looked so much better in the past ten games, averaging 18 points in those contests. He looks to be in a better mental state, which is so important for him. Paul George needs to continue to work on his offensive game. He’s come so far in his game overall. He’s now called upon on the defensive end to stop the best player. And he’s asked to become a scoring threat. That’s a lot of pressure for a guy in his third year that probably wasn’t expecting that. But he’s truly embraced it, and will hopefully show off his full game come playoff time. How about David West? He’s truly been the anchor of this team. If there was a MVP for the team, it’s West. The Pacers will have to look long and hard at keeping him around. I think they will, it will be just a matter of how much will that cost. But West is the glue that holds this together. The Pacers don’t have this impressive season without West even as good as George has been.
The team looks ready to make some noise in the playoffs. I think getting a win on Friday that could clinch up the division would be huge momentum going forward. Each game feels like it’s just building up towards that bigger goal of a playoff run. For me, it’s Conference Finals or bust for this team. If the Pacers lost out in that first round, this season will be looked down upon. Even a second round loss could be a disappointment. It’s all about making that jump into a battle with probably the Miami Heat in those Conference Finals. Maybe the Pacers get it going there, and make some run to the NBA Finals. If that happens, you should see plenty of Blue and Gold around this town. That’s what this team is ready for, and the fans should be ready for that.