After winning two of their last three games against quality Western Conference opponents and playing the first of back-to-back games, the Pacers risked getting caught in a trap of exhaling with overconfidence against the struggling Kings at the Fieldhouse.
But after an easy 101-83 win over the still struggling Kings, it was apparent the collective chip on the Pacers team's shoulder remains firmly attached and overconfidence wasn't entertained.
Before the game, Nate McMillan dismissed any concerns about a letdown after the degluge of high praise or getting caught looking ahead to LeBron and the Cavs on Wednesday. In fact, it sounds like there wasn't much high praise for the players from the coaching staff as they dealt with the deficiencies that showed up against the Spurs despite the win.
"A letdown? Are you kidding me? You can't have a letdown," McMillan said about his team not looking ahead to Cleveland.
"We're not playing this team's record we're playing the game. It's a home game that we certainly know how tough the road is that we need to come out and play better than we did in our last game. It's about Sacramento, winning this game, being better than we were in the San Antonio game. 19 turnovers for 26 points (against Spurs) and I think we gave up 20-something second chance, you're not going to win many games like that so we have to be much better we were in our last game."
McMillan delivered a classic "coach speak" response which wasn't surprising, but the way his team backed up their coach's comments, by delivering a laser-focused effort early which let the team to not only take care of the W but do so convincingly enough to begin preparing for the back-to-back early, was impressive.
There were no gaudy individual numbers aside from the first-half stats of Domas Sabonis who went to the break with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists. But Sabonis nor Oladipo nor the rest of the roster concerned themselves with pumping up their numbers in the second half, which in the end made the minutes played numbers the most vital stat of the night.
No player exceeded 30 minutes with Oladipo, Collison and Thad Young all exiting for good in the third quarter and resting at least the final 14 minutes of the game.
So now the Pacers move from a trap game to face a schedule loss in Cleveland. A back-to-back against a Cavs team that has had two full days off at home while riding a three-game losing streak? Yeah, that's a classic NBA schedule loss situation.
But just as the Pacers avoided falling victim to the trap game against the Kings on Tuesday, they have put themselves in the best position possible to overcome the schedule-loss circumstances and put forth another winning effort.
While the Cavs may end up having too much for the Pacers on Wednesday, it would be a shock if a lack of effort by this Pacers team was ultimately the cause. After all, as McMillan said and the players displayed on Tuesday, they are still coming together as a team and trying to play the game the right way regardless of the opponent or circumstances.