First of all, apologies for the lack of updates over the last week or so — I'm overseas and don't have regular access to internets or time. But I have been following the Pacers and I continue to be surprised at just how good the team is after the first month and a bit of the season.
Following their first and only loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Pacers have reeled off 6 straight victories — a 103-96 OT victory over the Knicks, a 97-82 win over the Celtics, a sloppy but easy 106-98 win over the 76ers, a comfortable 98-84 win over the Timberwolves, a 99-74 smashing of the Bobcats, and today, a 93-73 drubbing of the Wizards.
If you told me before the season began that the Pacers would be a league-leading 15-1 at the end of November I'd call you crazy. Seriously, after a lackluster preseason, no one could have predicted this. And yet the Pacers are not only winning, they are dominating. Granted, there have been times against weaker opponents when the Pacers appear to cruise and play down to their level — but time after time they have managed to find that extra gear reserved for the real championship contenders. It's the gear I didn't think they had in previous seasons.
Things are clicking. I knew their defense would be good, but what I didn't expect was:
– how good Paul George has become
– how much Lance Stephenson has improved
– how consistently DPOY Roy Hibbert is on defense
– how little time it's taking for the new additions to develop chemistry with the core of the team
– how much the team is gelling
And don't forget, Danny Granger still hasn't played a single game.
Unfortunately, the Pacers are going to lose AT LEAST 4 or 5 games in December because the schedule is that tough. It starts off in two days with a hellish 5-game road trip out West against the Clippers, Blazers, Jazz, Spurs and Thunder. If I was looking at this part of the schedule at the start of the season, only the game against the Jazz is a gimme, and perhaps the Blazers, but this Blazers team is on fire and hold 3rd best record in the league. This means the Pacers could be 16-5 (which would still be awesome) by the end of this trip, with 2 games against the Heat, one against the Pistons, one against Houston and 2 against the Nets (who MUST start to find their way by then) before the end of the month.
It'll be a good litmus test to see just how good the Pacers are this season. If they can go 3-2 on this West coast trip then I'll be super impressed.