When the original schedule was released, Indiana was opening against the Detroit Pistons. When the lockout was resolved and the games original scheduled were carried over to begin on December 25, Indiana's opponent the next night was none other than the Detroit Pistons. So why break up a good-- ...a thing?
The Pacers will in fact be opening the regular season just how it was originally supposed to be…twice; against the Detroit Pistons whether that’s a fun way to start or not. The NBA released the Pacers' schedule and the big talk has been what kind of back-to-back-to-back every team will have to deal with. The Pacers have two on the schedule, from February 14-16 and March 22-24. In the early set, they play against Miami, travel to Cleveland, and back in Indianapolis for a showdown with the New Jersey Nets. At Washington, vs. Phoenix, and in Milwaukee caps the second three peat, an opposing schedule that is far from brutal, even though they won’t be easy games.
Elsewhere on the schedule, the Pacers will have four shots this year against the mighty Miami Heat, giving the Conseco crowd (at least) two opportunities to see the defending Eastern Conference Champions. Having Miami twice helps to make up for a lack of Kobe Bryant coming to Indianapolis this year; a bit of a bittersweet feeling for local Laker fans or admirers of Kobe. The Pacers will also have four games against Boston (three in January) and three against New York, including a home and home in mid-March, awfully close to Tyler Hansbrough’s back-to-back career high night anniversary.
An interesting twist in the schedule is games within the division. As opposed the annual 16, the Pacers will play just 13. The only team they play four times are the Cleveland Cavaliers. The lack of extra game against Chicago certainly isn’t great for fans hoping to build the teams’ budding rivalry, especially as Derrick Rose and the Bulls come to Conseco just once.
The Western Conference games are what are taking a severe hit as far as home and away games go. The teams the Pacers will not play at home are not only the Los Angeles Lakers, but the defending champion Dallas Mavericks as well as Houston, Memphis, San Antonio, and Sacramento. Meanwhile, fans will still have the opportunity to see Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, Eric Gordon and the Clippers, in addition to Denver, Phoenix, Portland, and the Utah Jazz. As far as the Western Conference goes, the Pacers will have just one West coast trip from January 18-22, where they play just three games against the Kings, Warriors, and Lakers.
Depending on how the season unfolds for Indiana, they’ll be given a great opportunity to make up ground or add to their (hopeful) playoff resume by closing the year with four games at home including the season finale against the Bulls. The Pacers face off against Detroit twice, Toronto, Cleveland, and New Jersey to open the season, which gives Indiana a golden opportunity to jump out to a solid start before they travel to Miami to battle the Heat.
While the early portion of the schedule may give Indiana a chance to get their feet wet without running into a gauntlet of playoff opponents until the late portions of January, the hard part will be the blue and gold having to quickly learn how to win on the road often as 17 of the team’s first 24 games will be away from Conseco Fieldhouse. But if the Pacers can win at a better rate than they have in recent years, they’ll be in great position to have just two road trips of two games for the rest of the season.
The Pacers lone nationally televised game in Portland obviously bit the dust with the lockout, leaving Indiana with four NBA TV games in January and February. The workload will certainly take some adjusting, but if Indiana can figure things out early, they’ve got enough home games in the final 42 games that they can find themselves on a roll; one that could be big in getting them not only back to the postseason, but in the 5-6 range they have to hope they can be.