Just when it looked like the Pacers had closed out the Bucks, an ill-advised jumper, an even more ill-advised turnover and a few missed free throws put the W in jeopardy. Fortunately, Solomon Hill was able to clean up the mess late and ice the game at the line for a much-needed Pacers win.
Of course, all wins are big but this win was far more important than it may appear on the surface. Yes, it snapped a three-game losing streak, but looking ahead it was the last game the Pacers should be favored in for a couple of weeks.
On his Grady & Big Joe radio show a couple of weeks ago, Michael Grady, who triples as the PA voice of the Fieldhouse and WRTV sportscaster, made a point about the importance of beating the Knicks at home on Feb. 24, the first home game after the All-Star break. MG then broke down the Pacers remaining schedule.
With 26 games to play at the time, the first half of the remaining schedule was vicious while the final 13 games would soften up. L's were on the horizon, so keeping perspective through this tough stretch and grabbing every possible W would be key to survive until the Sixers come to town on Mar. 21 and things lighten up.
So far the Pacers are 2-3 in that first 13-game stretch with a gnarly eight games remaining. Here's a look at how the final 26 games split up.
So, yeah, how often will the Pacers be favored over the next eight games? Maybe in Washington, but the Wiz are 7-3 in their last 10 games and the Pacers will arrive in D.C. for the second game of a back-to-back...on the road...after playing in Charlotte on Friday. Regardless, the Pacers need to find a way to split the next two games to keep hanging around until better times arrive.
The Pacers return home to face the Spurs on Monday, but then need to take advantage of an extended break with four full days off before playing at Dallas and Atlanta the following weekend. Again, finding a way to split those two road games will help solidify a playoff foundation. The Pacers would then return home with a hypothetical record of 4-6 thru the first 10 games.
Then Boston, Toronto and OKC at home to close out the gauntlet. Gotta go 1-2 worst case with those games at home, right? So in this scenario, the Pacers would complete that stretch at 5-8 in good position to take advantage of the final 13 games.
The look ahead certainly doesn't sound ideal but considering 3-10 isn't out of the question, 5-8 would be reasonable considering the way the team is playing of late.
For a more hopeful outlook, say 8-5 which would require a 6-2 gauntlet run, the Pacers will need Rodney Stuckey to continue improving along with the healthy return of C.J. Miles to diversify the reserve unit scoring options.
Paul George is looking for more toughness? Well, the tough road ahead will demand all of the mental and physical toughness the Pacers have to offer. We'll see if they're still standing when Philly comes to town.
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