Did you know the Indiana Pacers are in third place in the NBA’s Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference?
Almost every person I’ve talked to about this topic in the past few days has stopped the conversation, took out a computer and said “show me” before the conversation could move on. Sometimes the other person would just leave the room in disbelief, throwing their hands in the air and stomping off like they couldn’t believe what they just saw.
Is what baffles people the fact that the Pacers have had a massive turnaround so quickly, after having finished in either eighth, ninth and 10th place the last few years, or that they don’t have a superstar? In any case, they are third and they may cause some damage in the playoffs this year.
Unless you are a hardcore NBA fan or remember a couple of players’ glory days in college, you probably haven’t heard a lot of the names on Indiana’s roster. The most recognizable name might be forward Tyler Hansbrough, who won a national championship with the University of North Carolina in 2009. Center Roy Hibbert was a brute during his time at Georgetown, and point guard Darren Collison played out his college ball days at UCLA.
But what about forward Paul George from Fresno State University, or Dahntay Jones from Duke University? I had to do a player profile search on NBA.com to find out what those guys have done in their careers.
This team is drawing comparisons to the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons. I agree on the front that the two teams definitely play better together rather than depending on one individual, but Detroit has had a couple of star players in Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace. But if this year’s Indiana team can copy the Pistons’ team-play style, it could be a very scary thing for teams that are pumped full of superstars, like the Miami Heat or the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Pacers are very balanced in terms of playing time and scoring. All but three players on their 15-man roster average at least 12 minutes per game, with the highest time being forward Danny Granger’s 33 minutes per game.
Points are spread evenly as well, with all but one player with at least 58 games played averaging 9.3 to 13 points per game. Granger is the leader with 18.7 points per game. One pertinent statistic I see as important is the assist-to-turnover ratio, which can be compared to the touchdown-to-interception ratio for an NFL quarterback. The Pacers have a 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio, with Collison sporting a 2.6.
However, even with these well-balanced statistical lines, watching these guys play as a team and seeing how they’ve reacted to adversity has been the most impressive characteristic. In February, they went on a five-game losing streak but responded with a six-game winning streak. They went 8-9 in the month of March but have only lost twice since March 31.
They have won 11 out of their last 13 games and seem to be firing on all cylinders at the right time of the year.
If you catch a Pacers game and you still can’t believe they are as high up in the Eastern Conference as they are, watch for a few minutes. This may very well be the team that takes out a couple of higher-profile teams in the playoffs.