The Indiana Pacers have lost five of their last six games, the latest a routine 110-96 road loss at Orlando. The loss can be blamed on myriad issues, but I'll lean on the issue of Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu all getting theirs and then some.
So here the Pacers sit at 6-10. A peek ahead at the pending schedule discourages thoughts of Jim O'Brien's crew reaching my goal of 8-12 after their first 20 games.
Or does it?
I expect the Pacers to grind through adversity, keep working hard and find a way to improve everyday. So how can I expect this level of commitment if I'm penciling in L's before they even take the court?
Nope. Not this time. The Pacers have shown the ability to play with the best teams in the league if they take care of the ball and defend. If their shots are falling, they can beat any team that shows up.
It's time to flip the schedule upside down and take a look at how the Pacers will reel off an improbable string of W's in their next six games.
Los Angeles Lakers (Dec. 2) -- The Lakers begin an apparently soft roadie against the Pacers on Tuesday followed by games the next night at Philly and on Friday at Washington. The Pacers will have two days of rest while the Lakers will be playing the day after a three-time-zone flight. As my son who can't get to sleep tonight after we did this yesterday will tell you, it ain't easy. Plus, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers have to be getting a little bored with all the winning. No doubt they will think they can cruise past the Pacers with less than their best. Also, Kobe will be looking forward to a big game in his hometown Philly the next night so he won't be pushing himself until it's too late. One more key is an off-night from Jordan Farmar. Yeah, I'm worried about Farmar thanks to his past performances against the Pacers. He's the Raymond Felton of back-up Western Conference point guards.
@ Boston (Dec. 3) -- The Pacers have already beat the Celtics once. Not good you say? The C's will be motivated to avenge one of their two losses this year? No way. The Celtics believed all the excuses for the earlier loss and will still overlook the struggling Pacers at home. Meanwhile, the Pacers will have Larry Bird in the stands smiling and waving to all the C's fans after motivating his roster beneath the stands at the Some Bank Garden.
@ Cleveland (Dec. 5) -- The Pacers have to feel good going into Cleveland where they dropped a frustrating game earlier in the year after taking a lead into the fourth quarter. If nothing else, the Pacers proved they can play right with LeBron and the Cavs. Speaking of LeBron, he'll be in for a let down after playing the New York Knicks two nights before. All of the batting eyelashes of the Knicks brass and New York media crush will certainly have the Cavs distracted. They might even be dealing with some ridiculous headline stories that developed before, during or after the Knicks game. The Pacers can quietly sneak into Cleveland, swipe the W and move on before anyone even notices.
Boston (Dec. 7) -- Yeah, I know, this schedule is ridiculous. The Celtics twice in four days with a game against LeBron in between. But after beating the C's in Boston, the Pacers will definitely be in their heads. Plus, the Celtics have three full days off before playing again so those off days will keep flashing into their mind-set during the game. Plus, after beating the Lakers, Celtics and Cavs the home crowd at the Fieldhouse will be pushing the Pacers to greatness.
@Toronto (Dec. 10) -- Jermaine O'Neal will return to make sure he's on hand to play the Pacers which will likely mess up the Raptors' timing and help the Pacers cruise to a win. It was always strange how the Pacers would win the first few games whenever J.O. went down with an injury (in fairness, over the long term he was missed). But then when he'd return J.O. would never be quite right in his first game back and the team's offense would slow down and be out of sync. I can feel the let down now. So with this burden now falling on the Raptors, the Pacers should be in good shape.
@ Detroit (Dec. 12) -- The Pacers will catch a break with the Pistons packing for a road game the next night in Charlotte against Larry Brown. With the advanced media attention on the Charlotte game, Allen Iverson will think Friday is a practice day and not show up to play the Pacers. The crazy thing is, I can't believe Iverson is still missing practices. How old is this guy? Plus, worse than missing practice is the media mea culpa the next day with an apology and vow that it won't happen again. At 33, I'd say it is time to take care of your business, A.I. With the Pistons in disarray, the Pacers cruise on to their sixth W in a row.
So there you have it, a 6-0 winning streak with W's against the league's elite. Sure the schedule looks daunting but you don't play all six games on the same day. If the Pacers take 'em one at a time and focus on what needs to be done they will have a chance to win every time out. So why not take advantage of that chance and win 'em all?