For the first six games of the season, I wanted to take a look at six things I’ve learned about this team so far. That will hopefully hold true throughout the season. Sure, you can keep saying it’s “only six games”, but starting out 6-0 shows me that this team isn’t taking that type of approach at all. We’ve already talked about the Lance Stephenson challenge of winning the first 10 games, and I believe this team wants to embrace that.
1. Strong Second Half Team
You can continue to see that this Pacers team just seems to step it up in the second half. That’s a great thing to see since it’s been a while that the Pacers have been that type of team. Even last year, this team would lose some of those games that they were leading the whole way through. The offense might have broke down. The defense could have slipped up. But so far, this season, the Pacers have just come out swinging in that third quarter, and really put the pedal to the metal in the fourth quarter. They had 28 points in the third quarter last night to give them some breathing room even as the Toronto Raptors tried to come back in that final quarter. But for the other five games, this team has been right around 30 points in the fourth. And to me, that’s saying something.
2. Defense Locked In
This is a team that you can see is priding itself on the defensive end. You feel like each guy out there is putting their foot down, and trying to guard their own man as tough as can be. Even a guy like Luis Scola, who’s not known for defense, looks to be stepping it up on that end. How about David West in that Chicago Bulls game, where he just seemed to have his hands active on the guy he was guarding? That amounted to three steals, which is always a good facet of his game. Paul George is that guy that you could probably say go out and defend the best player, and he’ll do it tough. Then who can forget Roy Hibbert in the middle, who’s only averaging right at 5 blocks a game, when his career average is 2. Even if that tapers off a bit, the fact that Hibbert is there standing strong in the middle will make some guys think twice about going into the lane.
Team wise, they’ve yet to allow 100 points, throw in there that the Detroit Pistons and the New Orleans Pelicans cracked 90 points, but still end up on the losing end. That’s how good this team defense is going for the Pacers. Tonight’s game against the Brooklyn Nets could be tough since this is a team with so many weapons. They might be able to crack that century mark, but with the way this defense is holding teams down, it might not be so easy.
3. Offense Should Get There
For as strong as the defense is, the offense is still a little behind. In that same regard of not allowing 100 points, the Pacers haven’t scored 100 points. But I am not worried about that as I know they would probably like those games to be in that 90 point range. If the Pacers keep teams in that range, they should be in every game. Offensively, turnovers are the key. It just seems like guys can’t make those entry passes into the post, and end up throwing the ball away. That’s something I don’t know can be corrected. The Pacers probably need to keep it up 15 turnovers a game to really help themselves. But I think that we’ll see a few breakout games for the offense as long as Paul George keeps up his pace of scoring. Roy Hibbert could be due for some 20 point games. David West should be in that 15-20 point range. Even Lance Stephenson has been getting double figures each game out this season. So there are the options there on offense, it’s just going to take a night when everyone is on.
4. Roy Hibbert Legit Defensive Player of the Year Candidate
Roy Hibbert has made no bones about what he wants to do this year.
People act like I can’t have individual goals. I didn’t talk about it in the past. Well now I am. I WANT DPoY. That’s gonna help my team win
— Roy Hibbert (@Hoya2aPacer) November 7, 2013
Normally for a team sport, you don’t want guys talking up individual accomplishments. But with the way Hibbert has been playing on that defensive end the past couple of years, I am fine with him stating this. This actually might help him get some more votes in that category if the thought is in some voter’s head. They could think well he need mention he wants to win, so we should pay more attention to what he’s doing. Hibbert is a guy that even if he’s not blocking the shot, I think he’s making a difference by playing with his arms straight up. To me, who wants to go down the lane when some big guy is right there waiting for you. There’s only that small number that can probably take on that task, and even then they’ll have to figure out how to shoot over the length of Hibbert. He might not break any records, but if he can keep up this average of 5 blocks, would there be any reason not for Hibbert to finish strong in Defensive Player of the year discussion?
5. Paul George Continues to Stat Sheet Fill
Paul George hasn’t shot the ball as well in the past couple of games, but he’s still hit for that 20 point mark, which is right where he should be. But how about the other stats? He’s at 4 assists a game. He’s grabbing 8 rebounds a game. He’s even got 3 blocks on the season. Here’s something else where I think it’s important to take into account, especially with the way Paul George defends, only at 1.5 personal fouls per game. That’s not the type of stat you normally pay attention to, but it caught my eye with how George can play so well without fouling. But back to the offensive game, you just see that George is doing all he can to help this team win. And you’ve already heard the MVP chants at Banker’s Life on Wednesday against the Bulls, if George keeps up his play, that’s going to be loud and clear come April.
6. 3 Wins in the Division
The Pacers will get their crack at the final division opponent next week in the Milwaukee Bucks, but getting three wins in the division already could go a long way towards another division title. What’s the goal for this team first? Win the division, so you have to beat the teams in that division to do that. You could look at the Chicago Bulls game as a good measuring stick since the Bulls have been so strong in the Central the past years. The Pacers were able to grab the title last year, and look poised to do it again. So to beat that Bulls team at home and do it decisively could be a statement. But there are plenty of games left to play in the division, so let’s see how this trend does play out. So far, so good though, and that is what matters.