There were two trains of thoughts this week in the national power rankings regarding the Indiana Pacers: Either they stayed locked into the top spot, citing their 2-2 week out West against some of the league's best competition as enough to hold on, or the back-to-back losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers were reason to drop them behind the two teams for third. In fact, back-to-backs proved to be the dominate talking point in this week's assessment of the Pacers, and with good reason.
Indiana sits at 18-3 on the season, still holding down the league's best record despite all three losses coming on the second night of a back-to-back on the road. Though the NBA did the Pacers no favors scheduling them in back-to-backs at Portland and Oklahoma City after first games against the Clippers and Spurs, back-to-backs are simply one of the NBA's great scheduling quirks. It's part of the reason why teams lose more frequently, but it's also become the ultimate "write-off" game, which is something Matt Moore at CBS Sports isn't too keen on. After all, shouldn't the league be more perceptive to showcasing a game between teams like the Pacers and Thunder rather than throwing Indiana on a back-to-back at the end of a road trip while Oklahoma City has a day off at home beforehand?
But despite an oblong number of back-to-back games between teams, it is something everyone has to deal with, work though, and move on from. Indiana does get a hefty load of back-to-back work, however. They've played seven in the first quarter of the season, and still have 13 left, including three straight back-to-backs to start January. They're 4-3 so far, but just 2-3 on the road, with the two wins being late wins against New Orleans and Brooklyn. To make matters worse, 10 of their remaining back-to-backs wrap up on the road. When Marc Stein suggests Indiana can inch towards 70 wins, he's basically assuming the Pacers can run the table outside of back-to-backs.
Nowhere is back-to-backs showing up more than on the defensive effort. Indiana is holding opponents to 84.8 points in non-back-to-backs, where it is balloons up to 99.0 on that second night as their point differential goes from 13.5 to -1.3. The Pacers proved in this past week that back-to-backs are a valid talking point when it comes to the eventual win/loss record of quality teams, but it'll be important for the Pacers to not fall victim to something they should still be able to overcome on most nights.
NBA power rankings 2013: Pacers remain on top despite ugly loss Sunday - SBNation.com
Indiana stays locked into the top spot thanks to the circumstances surrounding their play the past week despite the loss to Oklahoma City.
At season's uncertain quarter pole, Blazers take No. 1 | NBA.com
The Pacers drop to #3 with John Schuuhman showing some minor concern for Indiana's back-to-backs moving forward.
Power Rankings: Pacers still rule - ESPN
Marc Stein isn't ruling out the possibility of the Pacers winning 70 games. I am. I can't see more than 69.
Blazers edge Pacers, Thunder for No. 1 in NBA Power Rankings - NBA - SI.com
Matt Dollinger doesn't put much fault on Indiana for losing a tough game in Portland, but would've liked to see a better effort against Oklahoma City as he moves them to 3rd.
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Indiana stays #1, with Marc J. Spears opting to look ahead to Tuesday's game against Miami than back at the back-to-backs.
PBT NBA Power Rankings: At the quarter pole Portland takes the lead | ProBasketballTalk
Indiana falls to No. 3, behind the two teams that beat them at home on the second night of back-to-backs.
Power Rankings: Back-to-back games hurt quality, not ranking - CBSSports.com
Matt Moore also isn't putting much weight into Indiana's back-to-back performances on the road. He keeps them in the top spot despite them being 0-2 in back-to-backs this past week.