http://www.insidehoops.com/throwing-012304.shtml

KEEPING PACE
By M.J. Darnell

At this point, the Pacers look like the favorite to come out of the East. Yeah, Detroit just had a sweet run, but in the process of winning 13 of 14 games, they gained a total of 0 games on the Pacers and then were slapped around by them to end their streak. The Pacers are now 3-0 on the year against their top rival in the East.

So the question is, could the Pacers hang with any team that comes out of the West?

Right now, the Kings are owners of the NBA's best record. So let's see how the Pacers would match up 5-on-5.

C. Vlade vs. Jeff Foster. Advantage, Kings.

PF. CWebb vs. JO. Webber, of course, is an established All-Star. Jermaine O'Neal is averaging 20 and 10 and has become one of the better big man defenders in the league. I call it a wash.

SF. Peja vs. Ron Artest. What a fun match-up this would be to watch. Peja's been arguably the best offensive player in the league to this point, and Artest is arguably the best defender. But he can score, too. I call this a wash, too, but this match-up would be the most pivotal in the series.

SG. Doug Christie vs. Reggie. Christie's a very good defender and a good role player, but in the playoffs, guys don't get any more clutch than Reggie. Advantage, Pacers.

PG. Mike Bibby vs. Jamal Tinsley. Advantage, Kings.

I think the Pacers could match-up pretty well against either the Kings or Spurs. On paper, of course, no one matches up well with the Lakers, but it's so hard to tell what they'll look like come playoff time. As it stands now, the Pacers would be the East's best chance to provide a competitive final since 2000 when they took the Lakers to six games.

-----

HH ranks the Pacers and Pistons the same even though the Pacers have won all three of their games. Click on the link above for the rankings. (They are at the bottom of the page)