The Pacers have put up a couple of good examples recently of playing to the level of their competition, but their ability to do so will be severely tested in Oakland on Wednesday night when the face the Golden State Warriors.
The Pacers had a tight loss to the Chicago Bulls, followed up by a nice win over the Miami Heat. A few days later, the Pacers dumped a bad loss (again, in a close game) to the Los Angeles Lakers and then held on for a tight win over the Utah Jazz. Those four teams are representative of the NBA's top, middle and bottom tiers.
In all four games, little things (in particular free throw shooting) turned out to make a difference in the final outcome. The Pacers struggled at the line against Chicago, making just 13 of 21 freebies in the two-point loss. While rolling to a win over Miami, the Pacers made 26 of 30 free throws. In the loss to the Lakers, which had plenty of problem areas to point toward, the Pacers made just 13 of 18 free throws while the Lakers converted 28 of 30. Free throws then save the Pacers from upchucking another loss in Utah when they made 28 of 30, including the last four attempts to hold off the Jazz.
From night-to-night, the Pacers lineups have changed and so has their effectiveness. In a lot of ways, they are doing well to survive a trying time filled with a ridiculous number of injuries. Finding ways to remain competitive in so many games is a credit to Frank Vogel's ability to game plan at a high level.
But again, all of this gets tested against the Dubs tonight. Steve Kerr has turned the Warriors into a nasty matchup as a team that enters the game with just five losses this season. The Warriors have the top defense in the league while also boasting a top five offense with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson forcing teams to guard from 25-feet (30?) and in.
So can the Pacers play to the level of their competition against Golden State? No that would be impressive, despite the final outcome of the game.