Human Interest

THE INDIANA PACERS HAVE A CHANCE

You’ll get no argument from me if you “accuse” me of being biased when it comes to the Indiana Pacers. I’m definitely a fan, especially at the end of the season when they’re in the playoffs. Living in Arizona, I see very few regular season Pacer games on television.  Indianapolis, and therefore the Pacers, are not a major draw when it comes to fans and teams playing on, or near, both coasts of the U.S. Being in different conferences, the Phoenix Suns and the Pacers play each other only twice each season, once in Indy and once in Phoenix, so seeing their games is a rarity. Any other chance to see the Pacers would mean they have to be playing the Lakers, Golden State, New York, or Miami in a nationally televised game, and those don’t happen very often. 

So, I really haven’t seen enough of the Pacers to tell if they are any good. That is until the past month when I’ve had 13 opportunities to make an assessment. The playoff games for the most part have resulted in an evaluation that is both favorable and optimistic. The Pacers have been the beneficiary of injuries to significant members of the opposing teams. Milwaukee was without their MVP Giannis Antetekuonmpo for all 6 games and Damian Lillard for two. New York lost starters Julius Randle early on, and OG Anunoby after game two. Jalen Brunson was hurt in game 7, and backups Bojan Bogdanovich and Mitchell Robinson were out the whole series. Boston’s 7’3” starting center, Kristaps Porzingis, has been out the entire playoffs. With these important players missing, the Pacers gain an edge of which they can hopefully take advantage. Against both Milwaukee and New York they did take advantage. Yesterday, in game 1 at Boston, they had a chance but let it get away!

What’s been impressive to me, though, is how the Pacers have been in a position to win most of their playoff games. By that I mean they have played well enough to keep the score close in most of the games. The first two games at Madison Square Garden they lost by a total of 13. They could have easily won both, but made costly mistakes in the end. Three of the last four games vs. the Knicks showed the Pacers can be a dominant team winning by 13, 21 and 32! Yesterday, at Boston, the Pacers played well enough to win, but let Jaylen Brown make a game tying 3-pointer with 5 seconds left to send it to overtime. Overtime was a different story ending with a loss when they had the game won. 

I’m no basketball analytics expert, but I think this Pacer team has a good chance to beat Boston. The addition of Pascal Siakam in the middle has given the Pacers an offensive presence in and around the “paint” they haven’t had for years. Myles Turner is a great shot blocker and 3-point shooter, but is not effective one-on-one with his back to the basket. Domantas Sabonis was good in the paint, but I think Siakam is better and more consistent. When Pascal gets the ball, there’s a good chance he will get you two points. He’s won a championship with Toronto so he knows what it takes to win. 

The Pacers’ ball movement has been excellent and their outside shooting great. Shooting 67% as in game 7 vs. New York was an aberration. Their scoring in the paint was outstanding, especially, by Siakam. Turner is a good outside shooter and hasn’t seen a 3-pointer he didn’t want to take. Rebounding, passing, shot blocking were all superb. The Pacers defense was tough, too, but like Brunson from NY, Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown are two really good offensive players and a handful to keep in check. 

The encouraging thing is the Pacers have few weaknesses and can get a defensive stop anytime they need one. They are good at hitting a 3-pointer or a lay-up to keep a lead or keep the score close. Their bench is strong, and unlike some teams, they don’t lose ground when they’re giving the starters a rest. The bench scoring is as good as it gets. They have obscure, unknown players like Obi Toppin, TJ McConnell, and Ben Sheppard who give them some really good minutes off the bench. Who doesn’t love the hustle and non-stop energy of TJ McConnell. He’s fun to watch. Just think if Ben Mathurin weren’t injured.

I think Indiana has a real good chance to beat the Celtics. The five Pacer starters match favorably with the Boston starters, and as long as the defense can limit the scoring of Tatum and Brown, they can win this series, too. The bench has a definite advantage over the Boston bench. We just have to hope the Pacers don’t get any injuries that take someone out of the lineup. If all the parts keep working in sync, I think the conference title is theirs for the taking!

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Check Also
Close
Back to top button