The All-Star game last night means that it is the midway point of the season for the NBA. Indiana Pacers are one of the best teams right now in the East and in the NBA. Currently, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the best overall record with 42 wins. Now it’s time for head coach Frank Vogel & Co to get back to work and seek an NBA Title.
To some, Indiana is a surprise team as title contenders this year. In reality, Indiana has been just waiting for the time to strike.
In 2012, the world got a glimpse of what Indiana is made of. Miami beat Indiana in a six game series in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. A series in which Miami was tested in the post. Last year, Indiana took Miami to seven games but eventually lost in the Eastern Conference Finals. Indiana has been building a defensive monster since they made a draft day trade with Toronto to acquire center Roy Hibbert in 2008.
This season, Indiana has succeeded expectations. They’ve proven that they can hang with some of the best teams in the western conference, as well as, hang with Miami. However, there have been some some head scratching about their motivation during certain games this season.
Before the All-Star Weekend, Indiana went 6-4 in their last 10 games. As a team, you have to ask, what happened?
Lack of focus? Tiredness? Only the players know whats wrong.
But, one thing is for certain. This team will win the NBA title.
Everyone in the league knows about their defense. They are strong down low in the paint which causes fits for certain teams. Miami has even tried to match them by signing center Greg Oden this season. However, Indiana one upped Miami by signing former All-Star Andrew Bynum.
Despite not having played a single minute yet for Indiana, the Bynum signing could pay off in the long run. Teams tend to wear out Hibbert both offensively and defensively. Hibbert seems to be a hit or miss on offense this season. With Bynum coming off the bench, he is a more suitable big man than center Ian Mahinmi. But, time will tell if Bynum will pay off in the short run this season.
Expect the defense to remain lock down and a force to be reckoned with.
For Indiana, it’s always good to be prepared. Especially when playoff time comes around, any extra man is crucial to come in at any moment.
Offensively, they are good but not great. If Indiana gets guard George Hill going, then they will win. Hill though sometimes show struggles on offense. Indiana is 4-0 when Hill scores 20 points or more. Forward Paul George and guard Lance Stephenson might be the best offensive weapons for Indiana, but they have to get the ball to their veterans forward David West and Hill. If the young stars can get those two players more involved then they will be set.
Stephenson has a fiery attitude about him that Pacers fans love, but others loath. Stephenson could likely win most-improved this season in the NBA but Stephenson needs to not let things get to his head. If he can’t get going, the rest of the team seems to struggle. Stephenson will continue to improve and be a vital part of the season.
Expect the offense to be more tighter. They will learn from mistakes. Offense will try to incorporate more of Hill and West. The key for them is less turnovers. Sometimes Indiana can get wild with the ball.
The concern? The bench.
Forward Luis Scola was a very good trade for Indiana this past off-season. Forward Danny Granger coming off the bench has also worked out in Indiana’s favor this season. Granger has accepted the role coming off the bench and has been producing. As mentioned, at the moment no one really knows what to expect from Bynum. The concern comes from the guard position. In most cases, Vogel will keep one of the starters in the second unit group to get things started, then rotate out players. However, is guard CJ Watson the key?
Watson is a fine player. He is what you expect out of a back up. But, can the second unit cycle around and produce with him? I used to cringe at the sight of the second unit for Indiana. Now, I sort of feel comfortable, but when teams can go big in their second unit. I feel unsure.
Indiana signed guard Chris Copeland this season but have yet to utilize him to a full potential. Copeland is a solid three-point shooter, which a team like Indiana needs every once in a while. Rasual Butler has had his fair share of moments this season in which he has surprisingly produced.
With the NBA trade deadline looming, I wouldn’t expect Indiana to do anything drastic. Many, think Danny Granger could be a hot acquisition to someone but at this moment, I think he needs to stay with Indiana especially if they will be looking for a title. It would be nice for Granger to win a title with Indiana after all he is done for that team.
What to expect for the rest of the season? Expect a hungry team who is tired of losing to Miami in the East and looking to make a stand against a Western Conference foe in the NBA Championship.