The Indiana Pacers are back in familiar (though not recent) territory in the Central Division.
After steamrolling to five straight wins for a 5-3 record, including a 91-83 win over the Nets Tuesday, the blue and gold sit tied for second place in the very, very early race in the division. Of course, the Cavs, which are visiting the Pacers on Friday, have a sturdy 8-3 lead, but the rest of the division is holding its own.
The Central has proven to be one of the toughest of the league in this young season. Only the Pistons have fallen briefly under .500 with a 5-6 mark, while no other division has more than three teams with a better than .400 record. The Pacers, however, have no real idea of how they match up with their divisional brethren. They have yet to play another rival from its own division this year. In fact, Friday's matchup with the Cavs is the only Central Division foe for the blue and gold this month.
The Pacers will have to make in-roads within its own division by beating up on the dreads across the league. Another opportunity to do that occurs tonight when the Knicks visit Conseco "Reggie Miller" Fieldhouse. With a victory, the Pacers would be winners of six straight, while also taking both games of a back-to-back, which happened only once last season.
While you're waiting for tonight's game, check out the jump for links about Roy Hibbert's dominating performance against the Nets, Troy Murphy's return to practice and what the future holds for coach Jim O'Brien.
- AP Story
- Box Score
- Photo Gallery
- Bruno's Live Blog
- Bruno focuses on the Pacers' scrappy play that helped capture Tuesday's win in his postgame report. Bruno names Roy Hibbert as the player of the game (19 points, 9-of-11 shooting, 10 rebounds), so we'll let Hibby get a quote in today's links. Take it away, Roy:
"Coming down to the end of the game we wanted to make sure we closed it out. Last year, I think that we kind of folded and we lost those close games. They made their run, we stayed strong, we dug deep and we played together and we had each other's backs out there and that's why we got this win tonight." -- Roy Hibbert
- NBA.com's Bob Considine recaps the game by noting that the Nets ran into one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
- Mike Wells and the IndyStar talks about the way the Pacers have improved this season while playing the "lesser" teams of the NBA.
In Wells' notebook dump about Indy's Courtney Lee being injured on the league's worst team, Wells also got a brief comment from coach Jim O'Brien about Troy Murphy's return to practice on Monday. Apparently things didn't go so well. "[Murphy] can't lean on anybody or have anybody lean on him," O'Brien told the Star. "It's the NBA, people are going to lean on you."
- Wells also makes a plea for the Pacers to begin feeding the ball to Hungry Hungry Hibbert more often in the post.
- John Oehser recaps the game for Examiner.com.
- I love this. The Pacers are leaving teams in their wake that are fuming, frustrated and pissed off. The Nets also fell into this category. Here's a recap from Nets Are Scoring, while Dave D'Alessandro of the The Star-Ledger comments on the sad state of the locker room after the team's 11th-straight loss to start the season.
- D'Alessandro also writes about Trenton native Dahntay Jones having the season of his life with the Pacers.
- The Nets made a big deal about selling ridiculously cheap tix and also giving two free tix to every season-ticket holder to fill up the arena for last night's game. Well that didn't work. Only 11,332 showed up to not get their money's worth of the slow-moving, ugly contest.
- ESPN's power rankings had the Pacers climb from No. 24 to the No. 17 spot after the Boston win this weekend. Mark Stein writes the following: "We're with you, Pacer People. We watched your squad deliver another early season beatdown of the Celts -- just like last season -- and we're hoping this doesn't mean Indy is destined to peak in November. Again."
- Finally, CBSSports tries to find the next NBA coach who will bite the bullet and hit the road this season. Writer Ken Berger cites sources telling him that O'Brien is "safe, even if the Pacers return to their expected level of mediocrity after an early spasm of overachievement." No love.