Some Love for the Pacers

The Miami Heat are the talk of the NBA universe this morning, and deservedly so. They have two of the best five players on the planet and they’re 8-6.

But along with the criticism for the talents in South Beach, there should also be a little love for the fellas from Naptown. Yes, the Heat played turrible on Monday, but the Indiana Pacers had a lot to do with that.

Yesterday, I moved the Pacers up five spots to No. 14 in the Power Rankings because none of the other teams around them could win a game, not because I thought Indiana was one of the best 14 teams in the league. About 10 hours later, it looked like a brilliant move.

The Pacers are just 6-6 with last night’s win, but statistically (point differential per 100 possessions), they’re the 10th best team in the league, ahead of teams like the 10-4 Thunder and 10-5 Jazz.

The first thing you might notice about Tuesday’s box score is the Pacers’ 35-point second quarter. But it was the other end of the floor where the Pacers dominated, forcing the Heat into their worst offensive performance of the season (even worse than the season opener in Boston).

And even though the Pacers’ other quality win came thanks to an 85-point half, it’s their defense that has been their strength this season. Currently, Indiana ranks eighth in the league defensively, allowing just 100.3 points per 100 possessions. They were actually decent defensively last season (ranking 15th), but are the third most improved team on that end this year.

Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star writes on last night’s win

The hype surrounding the Heat all season has been centered on their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Pacers coach Jim O’Brien countered their threesome by changing his starting lineup and inserting Brandon Rush in place of Mike Dunleavy so Rush could defend Wade.

The move paid off because Rush and [Danny] Granger hounded James and Wade into a tough shooting night.

James led all scorers with 25 points, but he shot less than 50 percent from the field.

Wade was 1-of-13 from the field, including 0-of-5 on 3-pointers, and he missed four free throws on the way to three points.

How impressive was Rush’s defensive job on Wade? Well, never before in his career had Wade taken at least 10 shots or played at least 32 minutes and not made at least two field goals. He was 1-for-13 in 37:32 of playing time on Monday.

And the Pacers deserve a little love for that.

***

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

7 Comments

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  3. leggomymelo says:

    gotta gree with diehardNFFLbarnone. I live in Bloominton, IN and my heart will always be there for the pacers, thats why it hurts to think that Jim O’Brien will be back. I like him as a person and even as a coach, just not the pacer’s coach…. anyways i think some praise is deserved, even if miami isnt doing what was expected for a team like the pacers to go to miami and win and win in grand fashion is admirable. i love darren collison and of course im thrilled to see the development of roy hibbert. i feel that for the pacers to be a consistent team they need to have a david lee/paul millsap kind of player. they also need a true leader.

  4. diehardNFFLbarnone says:

    Jim O’Brien will probably get a two year contract extension after what happened last night, which is just sad.

  5. Zzanzabar says:

    Thank you Indiana. A while back I said that the Pacers would be a serious challenger for playoffs every laughed their heads off. Even when I noted that with Cleveland out of the picture as the defacto leader of their division, the Pacers would see the light at the end of the tunnel and have a chance do actually capture the top divisional spot people laughed.

    Last year the Pacers where a mere 10 game out of the playoffs and over 20 games behind a LeBron led Cleveland. This has got to effect a team morale, but now they can actually see the promised land and only the Bulls can stand in their way (unless the Bucks can get off of the wall and actually DO something). I’m saying that they now have an easy path, just now, without Lebron in the picture, they can have REAL hope.

    • DrBrux says:

      This win is a great pat on the back but it doesn’t mean a lot. A moral boost only works as such if the winning continues. While the Pacers have improved drastically over the past few years and there is real reason for hope don’t put them on too high of a platform. 10 games out of the playoffs in the eastern conference is 10 games below .500 ball. Last year with a record of 32 and 50 the Pacers were 29 games behind the 61 and 21 Cavs. The reason that you can mention the Pacers and playoffs in the same breath is because the bar in the central division has been lowered so drastically. South beach became much more talented over the summer, Chicago doesn’t have a healthy Boozer in the lineup yet, and Milwaukee has gotten off to a slow start. As the season progresses the competition for the top spot in the central division will become much more challenging, the Pacers have a lot to prove before you hand them a playoff spot.

  6. Filazafer says:

    I will give you credit for bumping Indiana to 14, but you lose credit for saying that they are a terrible defensive team without Roy Hibbert. Hibbert barely played against the Heat and the Pacers played great defense.