The Pacer Report
By Marc F. Roberts
Jan 26, 2004, 22:59 Email this article
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When you take a look at what the Pacers have accomplished up to this point in the season, it is hard not to be impressed. The Pacers currently have the best record in the league at 33-13, and they have already guaranteed that Coach Rick Carlisle will be coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars. So why is everyone hesitant about getting excited for the playoff push? Probably because of how eerily similar this season is to last season.
We all know last year’s story. The Pacers, an unproven team, led by an unproven coach, surprised everyone by storming out of the gates to a 14-2 record, and coasting their way to the 33-13 mark, producing the top record in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star break, and an All-Star Coach. The Pacers began to be touted as a legitimate title contender, and Pacers fans couldn’t wait for the final push for the playoffs, where they would certainly win the Eastern Conference Championship, and, at the very least, give fits to which ever team came out of the West. That is when the wheels fell off of the cart.
The Pacers went into a freefall for the final 36 games, finishing the season with a record of 15-21, and an embarrassing first round loss at the hands of the Boston Celtics. The “collapse” as it is now known, was blamed mostly on the coaching staff and the personal tragedies of the players. But what about their schedule? Could it be that last year the Pacers were simply a mediocre team who took advantage of a soft opening schedule, only to be crushed when the schedule caught up with them in the end? After examining the evidence it seems more than likely. The Pacers benefited by have the majority of their game in the first half at home, and against Eastern Conference opponents. As you might expect the second half of the schedule was full of road games, many of which were part of extended road swings or back to backs. What does the second half of this year’s schedule hold in store for the Pacers you ask? Lets take a look:
While the Pacers do not have the same problem on the road as they did last year (02-03:16-25; 03-04:16-8) it is nice to know that they have 19 of their final 36 games are at home where are 17-5. It is also quite reassuring to know that their four game road swing during early March is their only road trip left that is longer that two games. That road swing also wipes out four of their five remaining road games versus Western Conference teams. Their last comes March 20th in Memphis. Sounds pretty good, right? It only gets better.
The Pacers have only five back to backs remaining, compared to the 15 they have already played. The Pacers have also played the majority of the their games against the current top 10 teams in the league, putting up a very respectable 10-5 record against those teams. Four of their seven games left against these teams are in Indiana. The most anticipated of these will be February 2nd when the Lakers come to town, and March 19th when the Kings roll into Indy.
Maybe the most notable part of the Pacer’s remaining schedule is the fact that of their final 36 games, only 11 are against teams that currently have a .500 record or better. That’s right, the Pacers have a whopping 25 games left with teams that lose more than they win. Lets say the Pacers finish solid by winning 20 of those 25, and, say, seven of their 11 against teams above .500. That would give the Pacers a record of 60-22, which was good enough for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs last season. With the way some of the top Western Conference teams are playing on the road that may be a huge plus for the Pacers.
Season Total: 29-8
Last Week: 2-2
vs. Phoenix: The Pacers have dropped two in a row and need to get back to their winning ways. A home game against the last-place Suns with three days rest should do the trick. Pacers by 4.
vs. Boston: Boston has given the Pacers trouble this season, but with the loss of Vin Baker they have absolutely no one to guard Jermaine O’Neal. Pacers by 7.