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NBA Power Rankings: Pacers back on top for now

The Pacers move back to the top of NBA Power Rankings after a 4-0 week, with a road opening win against the Clippers. The loss to Portland will likely affect Indiana's standing moving forward.

Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

For the time being anyway, the Indiana Pacers return to the top of the NBA's Power Rankings following another undefeated week that finished up with a solid win in Los Angeles against the Clippers. Unfortunately, their loss to the Portland Trail Blazers will likely set them back barring winning out their road trip, but the praise for the Pacers, their play, and their overall demeanor is almost exactly what makes the loss to Portland so frustrating.

Most of the power rankings this week tout Indiana's stellar defensive effort, something that wasn't on display in the fourth quarter against the Blazers. It took what's going to wind up one of Paul George's best performances to just keep pace with Portland in the closing minutes due to their ability to not only hit shots, but force fouls and hit free throws. The Blazers flat out beat the Pacers when the Pacers are supposed to be at their best: the second half and end of games.

Indiana's defense did themselves very few favors against Portland's already efficient offensive attack when it came to giving up fouls. Lance Stephenson was visibly frustrated most of the night, and his second half defense against Wesley Matthews set Portland up for end of game success. The backcourt play as a whole left a lot to be desired, but it was still a team effort coming up short.

The real story of last night's game for the Pacers did come from Paul George's play late. In the final three minutes of the game, he scored 15 points on five three pointers. But every shot, a three pointer, simply trimmed a point off the lead every time. Seven to four, six to three, five to two, seven to four, six to three. In eight Portland possessions in the final three minutes, they converted points on six of them. That included four separate trips to the free throw line and 2-3 shooting with one turnover (that nearly resulted in Paul George's 6 points, 5 seconds, and would've trimmed the lead to one with 15 seconds left).

It's incredibly surprising to see Indiana's defense simply fail to come up with stops like this, more than George having an all-time shooting stretch. Whether travel and back-to-backs came into play is more an excuse than a tangible reason, but the team's play down the stretch and whether they'll be able to get stops will be front and center with the difficulty they'll see moving forward this week, as games on this trip remain at Utah, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City.

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