Pacers Face Opportunity To Show Improvement For Real

Heading into Saturday's game against Boston, no matter how positive a spin I put on my outlook, expecting a win just wasn't reasonable. Once again, I was reminded that anything can happen in the NBA and the Pacers know that can go both ways.

With back-to-back games against the Nets and Knicksbeginning tonight in New Jersey, reasonable minds can easily consider the Pacers' chances of adding two more W's to their winning streak very good. Yet, the recent past has left me with a scarred psyche, with fresh memories of the 2008-09 season when the Pacers often played to the level of their competition, following up thrilling victories with mind-numbing defeats. Bruno lays it all out in his game preview.

Last season, the Pacers had a tendency of following up inspiring victories with depressing slumps. After beating the Lakers at home on Troy Murphy's tip-in at the buzzer, for example, they dropped six in a row. After beating Phoenix on Granger's buzzer-beating 3-pointer, they lost three straight. After beating Orlando at home, they lost in Washington. After beating Cleveland at home, they lost in Milwaukee.

The Nets are desperately seeking a win, but that doesn't change the fact that, like the Pacers, they are missing several players to injury. The Pacers will have to miss shots and get out-worked to lose. On the other hand, if they simply take care of business and bring the effort they have in the past four games, the Pacers should be able to wear down the Nets and bring home a win.

Even if the Pacers are missing shots, they can still win by bringing the defensive effort they've shown recently as well as forcing the action in the lane for easy buckets or free throws. This is how the current 4-3 Pacers are different than last year's 4-3 Pacers. (More notes and links after the jump.)

Tim Donahue at 8.9 highlighted the team's difference in demeanor in the past four games. Some of the new faces have not only helped set the tone for attacking at every opportunity, but they've made it safe for players like T.J. Ford and Brandon Rush to join in and leave it all on the court. As Tim put it:

Last season, the only Pacer that really had the attack mentality that is so valuable in such a system was Jarrett Jack. His loss is a quality loss, but the new faces may make up for it with quantity. Luther Head, Earl Watson and Tyler Hansbrough each bring a great deal of intensity and a willingness to battle. Each has made good contributions so far. However, Dahntay Jones is clearly the most glowing example of this new attitude.

In essence, spilling your guts on both ends of the floor is officially cool. Everybody's doing it.

So this is a big week to put that new-found mindset to the test. With Cleveland at the Fieldhouse on Friday after the Nets and Knicks on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Pacers need to emerge with at least two wins for the three games. Back-to-backs are never easy, but the Pacers should be plenty fresh with all of the time off they've had between games lately. Nothing but a full-throttle effort should be expected in New Jersey.

As Bruno's preview reveals, the players are facing their past foibles head-on and appear to realize there are no excuses for a poor showing this week.  That is real nice to see, but words don't produce W's, only actions. So, yes I can't wait to see how this game plays out tonight.

Oh, and since I don't have to focus on one game at a time like the players do, a quick peek ahead exposes a relatively favorable schedule for the rest of November. Finishing 2-1 for the week would be nice and make finishing at least 5-3 for the month a nice goal to expand on this solid start to the season.

Does 5-3 seem reasonable for the rest of November?

Other thoughts and links:

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