Expectations are the darnedest things. Every fanbase wants them, yet most can only dream of having them. Until 2011-2012, fans of the Indiana Pacers were stuck in an expectations-less purgatory. Suffering through close to a decade of mediocrity, they had no reason to believe they existed. Then came last season's playoff series against the Bulls. Then came a noteworthy offseason. Then came winning four of the team's first five games. The expectations were building, and rightfully so. Well...someone forgot to warn the folks in South Beach as they pummeled those expectations with reckless abandon through a supreme attack in every phase of the game.
Thanks to the condensed schedule of the NBA, the Pacers have a chance to quickly forget about Wednesday night's basketball abomination. Up next? The Boston Celtics, a team and fanbase that's used to expectations, and a group that's clinging to waning championship hopes. Since Paul Pierce's return from injury, the Celtics have won four straight. A stingy defense has held its opponents to 83 PPG during the winning streak. Not exactly a good omen for Indy's already-dreadful offensive attack.
Rajon Rondo is the catalyst and facilitator for this aging crew. Ray Allen is the three-point marksman. Paul Pierce is the scorer. Kevin Garnett continues to play the role of "I'm not as good as I used to be, so the cheap shots and intimidation tactics are a comin'." And it's a role in which he thoroughly thrives. Boston represents a winning franchise and a likely playoff team. A win there presents a good opportunity for the Pacers and their fans to put rising expectations on reset.
After the jump, some other matchup morsels and questions.
Say hello to Brandon Bass; a bench maven averaging 14 PPG and 7 RPG. Frankly, he's everything Tyler Hansbrough should be for the Pacers. Away from the loopy rotations in Orlando, Bass has become an effective player for the Shamrocks, including a line of 20 points and 11 rebounds in the season opener...Jermaine O'Neal and injuries are a given, hence the need for capable big men in the Boston rotation. Enter Greg Stiesma, an undrafted player who recently won the Defensive Player of the Year in the D-League. Stiesma brings a little rebounding and shot blocking off the bench, and can start in a pinch. And a certain coach in Boston can't stop raving about him. Seriously, why can't the Pacers ever find one of these guys?
Remember when the Rondo-to-Pacers rumors were flowing? Most fans didn't see the benefit in breaking up the young core. Similarly to the flirtations with scorers Jamal Crawford and OJ Mayo, though, Larry may have seen what most did not: the Pacers needed an elite playmaker. Rondo's not a scorer, but he sees...he sees everything with the basketball in his hands. It's excruciatingly clear that when Granger puts it on the deck, he's incapable of putting himself in favorable spots to efficiently score the basketball. Imagine if he had someone on the roster who could do it for him...someone, like, say, Rajon Rondo...
PG: Darren Collison vs. Rajon Rondo
Question: As has been previously stated, Darren Collison has made remarkable improvements in facilitating the offense. He still doesn't appear to have the vision to routinely assist teammates toward easy scoring opportunities; however, one thing Collison does do well is score efficiently. And he needs to do more of it. If Vogel is serious about improving the offense, then he needs to encourage Collison to be more aggressive in looking for his own shot. Though, you have to wonder, would a seemingly shot-cautious Collison answer the call?
SG: Paul George vs. Ray Allen
Question: George has made this a serious and legitimate question: Who hits more threes between these two, not only during the game, but throughout the season?
SF: Danny Granger vs. Paul Pierce
Question: You'd be hard-pressed to find a more ineffective shot creator than Danny Granger right now. Who's at fault for allowing the inefficiency to continue? Granger? Vogel? And who'll be the bigger man to recognize in order for this team to be effective offensively, the time for Granger to be a featured, individual shot creator needs to end?
PF: David West vs. Kevin Garnett
Question: I don't even want to know what cheap gimmick Garnett has up his sleeve to vindicate Ray Allen's recent comments. Will West pick a convenient foe to get back to his 20 PPG ways?
C: Roy Hibbert vs. Jermaine O'Neal
Question: Hibbert and Collison have been Indy's most consistent/efficient offensive players to date. Yet, due to accommodating the West addition, Granger's involvement, and George's improvement, both Hibbert and Collison have seen a reduction in FGA compared to 2010-2011. Will Hibbert use and abuse an old Pacer legend to convince Vogel & Co. he needs the ball more?
Anyone here? Anyone?
Happy Game Day!