The Pacers started the season 1-4 but still showed plenty of promise with Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin flashing enough to make things quite entertaining despite the end result. No surprises.
Defense was the Achilles heal that would keep this team in the draft lottery conversation while the young players continued to develop. What wasn’t expected was how the offense would suddenly trend toward elite, playing at a fast pace and shooting and making threes in high volume, comparable to the league’s offensive monsters in Golden State and Boston.
After going 6-2 in the next eight, the Pacers are now over .500, in sixth place in the East and showing no signs of slowing down. The defense has shown signs of improvement with Myles Turner healthy and the emergence of rookie Andrew Nembhard as a perimeter defender. The Pacers rank 13th in Net Rating, and have a plus 1.1 point differential which are signs of a quality team rising up ahead of schedule.
The schedule turns light as the Pacers play Houston on Friday and then a pair of home games against Orlando. The Rockets and Magic have young teams that have not found success like the Pacers, but playing three games in four days is never easy. The Pacers consistent level of play will be tested, but the opportunity remains to put a solid win streak together before the schedule toughens up.
Also, all of this remains on a small sample size and is pending the health of key players, not to mention potential trades. Veterans Buddy Hield and Myles Turner have been critical to the early success and have the Pacers front office with some very valuable trade pieces to discuss with other teams.
Yes, the front office needs to continue looking to deal from a position of strength. The Pacers roster remains unbalanced and a big wing player or two would be welcomed to the rotation. Unclogging some backcourt minutes for rookie Mathurin would also be a good thing. However, until a deal or two is made, the Pacers are learning how to play a winning brand of basketball with the most entertaining style of play I’ve covered since starting IC.
Now that IS a surprise.
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