Nowadays it seems as though the offseason is getting shorter and shorter. There are so many significant things that happen such as the draft and free agency that keep our attentions occupied if only for a brief moment. The release of the NBA schedule is another one of those things that holds us over until the start of the season. There are always a few games that stick out on each team’s schedule that are going to be exciting to watch. The Pacers schedule is no different, and in their quest to reach the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond this season, I’ve highlighted ten games that should be a great guide to their schedule.
10. Fri, Dec. 20 V Houston
It wasn’t exactly LeBron’s Decision, but Dwight Howard made quite a splash by choosing his team this offseason. Houston added the biggest piece this offseason by adding the seven-time All-Star Howard. It almost appeared that Howard gave up on the Lakers last season and all eyes will be on him this year wherever the big man goes. Howard and shooting guard James Harden come into town for our first look at the new-look Rockets on this date.
9. Sun, Dec. 1 @ Los Angeles Clippers
If there ever was a month that you could point at and say it’s going to be an important one for the Pacers, it’s December. Nine out of the 14 games they play in December are against teams that made the playoffs last season. In December they play both Miami and Brooklyn twice, and arguably the three best teams in the West in San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the Clippers. This is the Pacers first game in that brutal stretch and could be a potential Finals preview.
8. Wed, Nov. 6 V Chicago
The Pacers were handed an early season gift as five out of the first six games are against teams that failed to make the playoffs last season. The only game in those first six that’s against a playoff team is this one against Chicago. Assuming that Derrick Rose is playing and looks like the old Derrick Rose, this game should be a clash of two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season.
7. Tues, Nov. 5 @ Detroit
Detroit has a very interesting young nucleus of players that includes big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond along with guard Rodney Stuckey. This offseason they brought back Chauncey Billups and added Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. Detroit looks much better this year than it did last year and might have a legit shot at the playoffs this year. This could be a potential first round game in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
6. Sun, Apr. 13 V Oklahoma City
Twice this season the Pacers play Oklahoma City and Miami in back-to-back games. This is the second of those meetings and is one of those games towards the latter half of the season. Both teams should fully have their identities intact, though I suspect neither will change much from what they did last season. Without a doubt this should be a pretty good measuring stick of where both teams are at entering the playoffs.
5. Wed, Nov. 20 @ New York
It’s always fun when the Pacers visit the Knicks. One can hardly watch one of these games without having flashbacks of Reggie Miller and Spike Lee. So maybe this game isn’t quite at the level it used to be, but it was a second round matchup in last season’s playoffs. No doubt these teams will be right in the thick of things again this season as Carmelo Anthony looks to get revenge at the Garden.
4. Tue, Dec. 10 V Miami
This is the Pacers’ first home game against Miami this season. It’s in a tough stretch for the Pacers as the two games before this one they play at San Antonio and at Oklahoma City. The Pacers took two out of the three games in Indiana against the Heat in the Playoffs last season and protecting their home court is something they’ll need to do again this season. Miami was the only one of the three teams the Pacers faced in the playoffs to take a game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
3. Sat, Nov. 9 @ Brooklyn
Brooklyn might be the most improved team in the Eastern Conference. The Nets added Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko this offseason. The Pacers’ first look at the Nets comes on this night in Brooklyn. If all their aging pieces can stay healthy, this game could be one we’ll see again in the latter half of the playoffs.
2. Mon, Mar. 24 @ Chicago
The last game the Pacers play against Chicago in the regular season is on this night. It could be an important one as the two teams could be battling for playoff position, and the chance not to see the Heat until the Championship round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. This game could be a second round game in the playoffs as well.
1. Fri, Apr. 11 @ Miami
The fourth and final game with the Heat in the regular season comes on this night. There’s a good chance that the Heat will have home court advantage once again in the playoffs, so proving that the Pacers can win on Miami’s home court will be huge. Last season the Pacers were 2-3, including the playoffs, in games at American Airlines Arena. This game will show whether or not the Pacers did enough to solidify that bench that they worked so hard on this offseason. Not to mention we get to watch LeBron James and Paul George go mano a mano.