If a winning record on the road, and against Western Conference foes mind you, doesn’t prove the Indiana Pacers are for real, I’m not entirely sure what will.
Indiana did so in impressive fashion. The Pacers defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs while losing to the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Portland and OKC are currently 1-2 in the standings out West, which says something about their playoff contention.
The two losses on the trip also came on the second night of back-t0-backs, thus making all three of Indiana’s losses come in that exact fashion. All three losses have also been on the road; Indiana remains undefeated at home.
This week, the Indiana Pacers play host to the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Bobcats. A matchup with Miami has been highly anticipated since last season’s showdown in the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami won 4-3 and went on to win their second consecutive NBA title.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel deemed Miami the sixth game of “the toughest six game stretch” he has witnessed as a head coach.
Even after their trip out West, Indiana still maintains the best record in the NBA. This is something to keep in mind considering they had one of the easier schedules leading up to the 5-game Western tour.
One of the biggest reasons that the Pacers are playing at such a high level is due to their theory of “togetherness.” They play together, they hang out together outside of basketball, and they know each other’s next move on the hardwood. All of these traits make winning that much easier. The guys have been around each other – specifically the starters – for multiple seasons. Maintaining a steady lineup and rotation is key to success.
Another factor is confidence. All-Star Paul George is undoubtedly playing with the most confidence on the team, but others have stepped up when it has mattered most. Lance Stephenson has recorded two triple-doubles – and nearly a third – already this season.
All five players are averaging double figures in scoring, with two others in Luis Scola and C.J. Watson having been starters in the past.
Everything adds up. It all makes sense. The Indiana Pacers have mentally, physically and statistically created a winning team. An elite, title contender at that. A 3-2 record out West was just further evidence that the blue and gold are ready to take the next step.