With the Pacers sitting at 7-12 and the Boston Celtics up next on the schedule tomorrow evening, Pacer fans might find it hard to keep their head up and keep believing this team will find more success this season.
Yes, the schedule has been tough but anyone who has watched the games so far realizes the Pacers should have more like 10 wins at this point. Reversing the blown leads at home against Philly and Charlotte and on the road against Dallas would do it. If you want, swap in the first loss against Orlando or at Miami.
When I initially considered the schedule and figured 8-12 after the first 20 would be solid, I wasn't anticipating wins over the Celtics and Lakers. That's why you pencil them in. Never use permanent ink. So with those two beauties in hand, the 7-12 record is still a little frustrating even if it keeps them on a decent pace. But with one to go, the Pacers have weathered the first 20 without getting buried, only sitting 1.5 games behind the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference.
Mike Wells talked about the tough schedule with Jim O'Brien and he's happy to have the tough games out of the way. Plus, the difficult early games can toughen up his team since no one thinks it will break them.
"In retrospect, if I could have a real tough schedule like we've had up front as opposed to a lesser schedule, I'd take it up front," O'Brien said. "I think it's the same reason NCAA coaches load up their schedules with tough teams before they go into a tough conference, to give the players an understanding of what they have to do to succeed."
So with pencil in hand, I took a peak ahead at the next 20 games. With the way this team has shown it can play, there are plenty of winnable games. Unfortunately, this team has shown it can lose to any team, as well. So, I think 12-8 is a reasonable expectation to start the Pacers moving in positive direction and keep their head above water in the Eastern Conference.
Allow me to assume the worst and the Pacers lose to the C's tomorrow to close out the first 20 at 7-13. With a little remedial math, the 12-8 over the next 20 games puts them at 19-21 with 42 games to go. Definitely within reach of making the playoffs.
We can debate the would've, should've, could've wins of the past or the sure wins of the future all day. But one thing the next quarter of the season will expose is how the 2008-09 Indiana Pacers will be remembered.
Let's hope that memory is of a team that played together and produced better than the sum of its parts, made a dash into the playoffs and laid the foundation for much more future success.