The Pacers avoided disaster on the road in their last two games, rallying to beat the Knicks and Bulls, but as they return home they will have to raise their level of play to match the competition coming into the Fieldhouse over the next few days.
The deep and talented Boston Celtics tip off the three-game homestand on Saturday night. So deep, in fact, Brad Stevens is still mixing and matching lineups trying to figure out how best to utilize player combinations to deliver Ws. After starting the season, 2-2, the C’s have won four in a row heading into their game against the Pacers.
Long, athletic and lots of threes caused the Pacers problems in Milwaukee against the Bucks and the Celtics lean on a similar recipe for success. The C’s were a problem last year (no, not bringing up “the pass” here ) and now with Gordon Hayward in the mix, should have their eyes on the NBA Finals. The Pacers will have to be active on defense and have that 3-ball shot rolling on their home floor to put themselves in position to win.
They will also have to bring it for 48 minutes which they cannot cop in their last two game, despite the end result. The best part of the result was the resolve to make plays and pull out the wins in both New York and Chicago since the prior seven games, win or lose, were decided by ten points or more.
The fun at home doesn’t end when the C’s roll out of town, though. On Monday, the Houston Rockets make their annual visit to the Fieldhouse and expect to be in a winning mood. A Chris Paul suspension and James Harden hammy injury have the Rockets off to a rough, 2-5 start. But Harden expects to play Saturday night which means barring a setback against the Bulls, he should be ready to go against the Pacers.
The Rockets are a brutal matchup for the Pacers with Harden since they spread the floor and shoot a ton of threes off of his ability to break down the D. Plus, Houston didn’t think they were annoying enough with Harden and constant complainer Chris Paul, so they added veteran bitch-master, Carmelo Anthony to the mix. Should be fun.
The homestand wraps up on Wednesday with the Philadelphia 76ers making the first of two appearance this season at the Fieldhouse. Like the Boston game, this one has major Eastern Conference implications as the Pacers expect to be fighting the Sixers for playoff real estate throughout the season. Taking care of business at home is critical since it is never too early to think about tie breaker considerations.
The Pacers handled the young Sixers quite well last season, feasting on their propensity to turn the ball over. We’ll see if they can pick up where they left off last year as it relates to Philly when the Pacers were the last team to beat the Sixers in the regular season, despite a poor offensive game from Victor Oladipo. It was a fantastic and much slept on W from last season.
But that was last season. The Pacers are back in position to prove they belong among the top teams in the East. By the end of this week, they’ll either be able to make that statement or be forced to get back to work and prove they belong when it counts later in the season.
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