The 5-0 Pacers haven't always started well, but their ability to finish with a strong, focused effort throughout the second half of games, has allowed the Blue and Gold to overwhelm opponents en route to earning Ws.
Those nasty second-quarter lulls have put pressure on the Pacers to deliver their second-half surge, since they've only outscored opponents in the second quarter once (against Cleveland and by only one point). With George Hill out, shuffling the rotation, the Pacers were -12 against the Bulls and -18 against the Pistons the night before in the 2Q. Following the win over Chicago, Frank Vogel acknowledged the problem in the second quarter and looked forward to tweaking the rotation to find something that works.
The return of Hill will help, not to mention a dose of Danny Granger at some point, but one thing Vogel doesn't need to tinker with is whatever the team is doing in the second half. The spirited effort the Pacers unleash at both ends of the floor plays a big factor as opponents begin to wear down and in some cases fold under the relentless pressure.
"Whatever is going on, we understand it's a long game," Paul George said about his team's ability to shake off poor early play to close strong at winning time.
"We know in the fourth quarter it's time to put games and put teams away and we really smother teams. We really ramp it up defensively and we understand the we gotta get easy transition buckets, so that's when we really get out and run and take care of the ball."
The confidence George explains, comes from the top down and the way the team prepares to play for 48 minutes.
"It's coach," George responded when asked about the crunch-time comfort level. "Just coach putting guys in good situations and he's highlighting their strengths and putting guys where they can score the ball. We're all comfortable with one another and very confident when we're on the floor."
And opponents take notice as the Pacers seem to get stronger as the game goes on which can frustrate opponents before eventually killing their will to respond.
"Oh, they're (opponents) definitely getting frustrated," Lance Stephenson said. "We've got guards that can guard all the wings and we've got Roy and Ian and David West playing them straight up, so there's nothing they can do but hope the shot goes in."
On top of that defensive pressure, the Pacers can clear the glass to diminish second chances which triggers the offense going the other way to fuel big runs that have had the Pacers outscore their opponents in nine of the 10 second-half quarters the team has played.
A garbage-time rally by the Pistons left the Pacers -3 in their fourth quarter in Detroit, but the +14 third quarter had the Pacers in position to hang on for the win at The Palace. The Pacers also came up big with a +12 fourth quarter in New Orleans and of course, the +16 fourth quarter against the Bulls last night made Derrick Rose and friends fade away without a fight.
The reputation the Pacers are building will make opponents dread seeing the B&G next up on the schedule. The effort and execution combined with the physical talent and length the Pacers put on the floor are certainly a difficult combination for any team to match.
The Pacers even endured a little adversity in the second half against the Bulls, when the calls weren't going their way and the Bulls pushed back hard. But the Pacers flipped the frustrations by sticking to their plan and eventually "smothered" the boys from Chicago.
After dealing with that adversity, now we can see how the Pacers deal with success since they won't be sneaking up on any teams for the rest of the season.