Key wins on the road against Minnesota, Cleveland and Miami and at home over San Antonio, Toronto and the comeback against Detroit, have pushed the Pacers into early playoff contention. Those wins helped make up for rough losses after early leads agains the Knicks and New Orleans in particular, although that late rally to be the Pistons certainly made up for the fade against the Knicks.
Aside from those rough losses, the Pacers have taken care of business in games they should win against Brooklyn, Sacramento, Chicago and Orlando twice. That's a sign of a team showing up to play consistently, which this Pacers team has down through a quarter of the schedule.
Now they hit the road to begin another difficult stretch of the schedule. Their next eight games include road games against the Rockets on Wednesday and the Raptors on Friday followed by six home games. After hosting the Knicks and Bulls the remaining four games present difficult matchups against playoff conteders in the Cavs, Nuggets, Thunder and Pistons.
After their early success, the Pacers will have the attention of their opponents going forward. We already know the Rockets are a rough matchup after they eased passed the Pacers, 118-95 at the Fieldhouse. Plus, the Raptors didn't enjoy their visit to the Fieldhouse last Friday, with Lance throwing a W in their face, so they will be rested and ready to host the Pacers this Friday.
But regardless of how daunting the tasks appear on the schedule, the Pacers remain a young team grinding together to improve. They have shown the ability to compete regardless of the outcome and maintaining that edge through the next eight games offers the Pacers an additional opportunity to grow and improve even if their record continues hovering around .500.