The Indiana Pacers currently sit four games above .500 as the Eastern Conference’s sixth-best team. However, the month of February will look to pose as a serious challenge for a Pacers team that has been both hot and cold throughout the entirety of the 2016-17 season, thus struggling to live up to the expectations placed on the team prior to the season’s start.
For starters, as mentioned above, the Pacers are set to play a league-high 13 games this month (having won Wednesday’s matchup against the Orlando Magic), as well as four back-to-back games. Looking at the team’s season schedule thus far, the Pacers have performed dreadfully on the 2nd night of a back-to-back — having gone 2-7 in such games. The four teams that Indiana will face in those games read as follows: The Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards and Miami Heat.
Earlier this week, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann released his schedule analysis for every NBA team in the month of February. Here is what he had to say regarding the Pacers’ schedule:
“The Pacers begin the month against three of the seven worst offenses in the league (Orlando, Brooklyn and Detroit), but still play a league-high seven games against teams that currently rank in the top 10 in offensive efficiency, including six straight going into the break.”
Already having beat the Magic, the Pacers have the opportunity to start off the month with three-straight wins against Brooklyn and Detroit — whom have a combined record of 31-67 this season. The real test begins when Indiana faces the Cleveland Cavaliers (33-15) at home on Feb. 8.
As Schuhmann mentions, the Pacers will also play seven games against teams that are in the top-10 in offensive efficiency — a true test for a defense that ranks 22nd in the league, allowing opponents to average 106.3 points per-game.
For a team that got off to a very rocky start to the season, the Pacers control their playoff destiny, and finding success in perhaps the league’s toughest February schedule would greatly benefit the team in the long run as they wouldn’t need to rely on winning those late-March, early-April games to punch their ticket to the playoffs.
Sitting three games ahead of the 8th seed in the East, and three games behind the No. 3 seed in said conference, it is crucial that Indiana avoids any lousy efforts against teams that they should beat soundly — an issue that has plagued them throughout the season.
The Pacers will look to start the month off with two-straight victories when they travel eastbound to take on the Brooklyn Nets (9-40) Friday night. Tip-off is set for 7:30 pm, ET.