Through the Indiana Pacers’ 27-6 start to the season, there have been two themes that stand out over the rest. Frank Vogel’s group has been ferocious in the second halves and always tend to limit the opposing team’s stars.
On Saturday evening, the New Orleans Pelicans made their first trip to Indiana under the new brand and appeared early on that Indianapolis sports would have an appalling day. However, “luck” was on their side, as the Pacers rallied in the third quarter and the Indianapolis Colts overcame a 28-point deficit to advance in the playoffs.
Why mention football?
Well, every fan in Bankers Life Fieldhouse erupted when Pacers’ PA announcer Michael Grady announced that the Colts made one of the best comebacks in NFL history. In fact, it startled all of us in the media section, curious as to why the crowd was cheering as the Pelicans went to the free throw line.
On Sunday, the Pacers finished their impressive weekend with a road victory in Cleveland, downing the Cavaliers 82-78. The only quarter Cleveland outscored Indiana happened to be the fourth, which was due to Dion Waiters‘ 12 consecutive points in a spurt that brought the game to a 75-74 battle with 3:35 remaining. Nevertheless, Indiana buckled down defensively with Hibbert’s strong stop at the rim as Waiters drove the ball in the lane in the closing seconds. David West connected on just one free throw the Pacers needed with 5.4 seconds left, and the Pacers improved to 27-6 on the season.
With the weekend wins, the Pacers increased their home record to 16-1 and road record to 11-5. What has been consistent (for the most part) wherever they play, however, is the level of difficulty they impose on the opposing star players.
Looking back at some of Indiana’s memorable moments since November, it’s been impressive how well the defense has locked in against some of the best talent:
Nov. 2nd vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (Win, 89-74)
- Kyrie Irving – 15 points, 6-of-17 shooting
- Cavaliers just 34.9 percent on field goals, 20 percent from 3-point range
Nov. 5th at Detroit Pistons (Win, 99-91)
- Josh Smith – 16 points, 5-of-16 shooting
- Brandon Jennings – 17 points, 6-of-20 shooting
- Andre Drummond – Not involved, 6 points in 34 minutes
- Pistons shoot 37.9 percent from the field
Nov. 6th vs. Chicago Bulls (Win, 97-80)
- Derrick Rose – 17 points, 6-of-15 shooting
- Luol Deng – 17 points, 6-of-18 shooting
- Carlos Boozer – 6 points, 3-of-10 shooting
- Bulls shoot 35.6 percent from the field
Nov. 25th vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (Win, 98-84)
- Kevin Love – 20 points, 6-of-20 field goals, 1-of-5 3-pointers
- Kevin Martin – 18 points, 4-of-14 shooting
- Timberwolves shoot 32.6 percent field goals, 15.8 percent from 3-point range
Dec. 1st at Los Angeles Clippers (Win, 105-100)
- Blake Griffin – 16 points, 6-of-13 shooting
- Chris Paul – 17 points, 6-of-15 shooting, missed two clutch buckets in fourth quarter
Dec. 7th at San Antonio Spurs (Win, 111-100)
- Tim Duncan – 10 points, 3-of-10 shooting
- Tony Parker – 13 points, 6-of-14 shooting
- 55 percent of Spurs’ points came off the bench
Dec. 10th vs. Miami Heat (Win, 90-84)
- LeBron James – 17 points, 6-of-16 field goals
- Heat shoot 42.9 percent field goals, 19 percent from 3-point range
Dec. 20th vs. Houston Rockets (Win, 114-81)
- James Harden – 12 points, 3-of-14 field goals
- Rockets shoot 38.1 percent from the field, 18.2 percent from 3-point range
Dec. 23rd at Brooklyn Nets (Win, 103-86)
- Deron Williams – 9 points, 3-of-9 shooting
- Paul Pierce – 0 points, 0-of-7 shooting, first scoreless game in more than a decade
- Nets shoot 38.2 percent from the field, 23.1 percent from 3-point range
Dec. 31st vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (Win, 91-76)
- Kyrie Irving – 10 points, 3-of-9 shooting (injured knee in 3rd quarter)
- Dion Waiters – 12 points, 5-of-13 shooting
- Cavaliers shoot 36.3 percent from the field, 8.3 percent from 3-point range (1-of-12)
Jan. 4th vs. New Orleans Pelicans (Win, 99-82)
- Anthony Davis – 10 points, 4-of-12 shooting
- Jrue Holiday – 8 points, 4-of-9 shooting
- Tyreke Evans – 12 points, 3-of-9 shooting
- Pelicans score just 12 points in 3rd quarter
While Indiana has given up big nights to the likes of Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Damian Lillard, those were on the road in extremely tough environments. Of course, that’s one of the Pacers’ two concerns moving forward; executing the same way on the road as they do on their home floor. Come playoff time in the Eastern Conference (finals or semifinals), Indiana can’t afford to give up any strong outings to Wade, or even DeMar DeRozen of the Toronto Raptors. Toronto knocked off Vogel’s Pacers last week in the Air Canada Center due to a huge turnover letdown for the entire Pacers’ team. That’s their other concern that was under slightly better control during the weekend, recording 15 turnovers against New Orleans on Saturday and just 13 at Cleveland on Sunday.
On average, teams are shooting just 41.3 percent against the Pacers, ranking Indiana first in the NBA in that department. On the perimeter? Opposing teams connect on just 32.4 percent of their 3-pointers, also making Indiana first in that regard.
Defensively, it’s difficult to imagine this team getting any better. With five of their next six games being played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, we’re probably in store for more unbelievable play, second half shutdowns and, most importantly … wins.