The Pacers have been predictably unpredictable this season. Sometimes they earn burgeoning road wins against perennial playoff teams (Nov. 12 at Miami, Nov. 15 at Chicago and Nov. 24 at Dallas) with, at best, only one returning starter from last season available. And other times, during the dog days of January, they drop winnable games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves. Twice they've been on 6-game losing streaks and once, while on a 7-game win streak, they had the best win percentage in the NBA. They watched as Ersan Ilyasova knocked down 5-of-6 three-pointers last Thursday, but they limited Dirk Nowitzki to only one attempt on Sunday. They've been built up by George Hill's return to the starting lineup and the possibility of Paul George making a comeback, and they've been deflated by, yet again, more bumps and bruises and, perhaps, even the buzz and uncertainty surrounding their own star player's return.
Given Indiana's past history, it is impossible to even compare this team to a pendulum, for pendulums, though they oscillate, at least swing left to right at a steady amplitude. As can be seen below, there is no such gauge for the Blue & Gold, who seemingly can make a turn -- for better or worse -- at a moment's notice.
|7-game win streak (Feb. 27 - Mar. 12)||106.2||7th||88.4||1st||17.8||1st|
|6-game losing streak (Mar. 14 - Mar. 26)||100.9||19th||111.1||27th||-10.2||29th|
Indiana's propensity for inconsistency is reflected in this week's power rankings:
Slotting the Pacers at No. 15, Marc Stein points out that, had Indiana not beat the Wizards on Wednesday, the Pacers "would have joined the 1993-94 Celtics, 1977-78 New Orleans Jazz and 1958-59 Syracuse Nationals as the only teams in history to lose seven consecutive games after a win streak of seven or more games in the same season."
Up to No. 20 from No. 22, Drew Garrison points out the improbability that this Pacers team still has the opportunity to earn a playoff berth, "The Pacers are still very much in position to make the playoffs, which remains one of the most improbable potential playoff run storylines to follow through the end of the season."
John Schumman, dropping the Pacers to No. 21, credits George Hill for his play against the Wizards and the team for their hot shooting against Dallas, while noting "Just when you think they're out, the Pacers pull themselves (with some help, of course) back in."
At No. 19, Matt Dollinger notes that "gutsy" wins against the Wizards and Mavericks have the Pacers right back in the playoff race, only a half-game outside of the playoffs with head-to-head match-ups against the Heat, Nets, Celtics and Hornets fast approaching.
Dropping the Pacers from No. 10 all the way to No. 21, Matt Moore writes that the Pacers could "use a shot in the arm." Perhaps that jolt of energy (if not from Paul George), will come via the confidence they gained from shooting 58.8% from three against a Western Conference playoff team on Sunday. Otherwise, the Blue & Gold may just have to ask the league's permission to finish off the season in the Flo-Jo's.
Predicting whether Indiana is going to swing right (a 7-game winning streak) or left (a 6-game losing streak) on a game-by-game basis is one thing, finding the team's center of gravity -- who they are and exactly how good they can be -- is something that can only be determined once they are finally whole.
Until then, enjoy the ride.