A Look at the Pacers before the Final Stretch
*Photo via USA Today
Following this week of basketball for the Pacers they managed to finish 3-2 for the week. Out of these five games, four of the games were with teams in contention for the final two Eastern Conference playoff spots. The Pacers started of the week with a nice win over the Mavericks 104-99. Unfortunately, they dropped a game against the Nets in Brooklyn 111-106 after a 39 point second quarter, which made a blowout game, a tight game till late. Following that loss they also dropped a game to the Celtics, in which they were able to cut the game to 67-62 going into the fourth; However, they lost 100-87. Following these big loses, the Pacers did manage to take their last two of the week. They defeated the Hornets 93-74. Then yesterday, they took advantage of the fast falling Heat in a 112-89 win.
During this week the Pacers as a team were averaging 100.4 PPG and defensively they allowed only 94.6 PPG, which contributed to them finishing the week 3-2. They also shot a decent 45% from the field. Currently the Pacers are 34-43 and are sitting at 9th in the Eastern Conference with Miami, but remain only a game behind the Celtics and a game and a half behind the Nets. The Pacers have Monday and Tuesday off and return to action Wednesday against the Knicks, which should be an easy/must win game. Following the Knicks, the Pacers play Detroit in Detroit, then return home to play their final two home games against the Thunder and Wizards, before finishing their regular season in Memphis. Now with this schedule it is impossible for the Pacers to afford to lose either game against the Knicks and Pistons; Since they play three playoff teams to end the year. Best case scenario and realistic one is the Pacers go 4-1 to end the season and hope to get some help by the Celtics, Nets, and Heat dropping a few games.
Now I think I’ve neglected the biggest part of this week long enough, that being the return of Paul George. We saw Paul George back in action Sunday night against the Miami Heat, coming off the gruesome leg injury he suffered only 312 days prior. Last night in his debut George played around 15 minutes. In those 15 minutes, he shot 5-12 from the field and 3-6 from behind the arc for 13 points. Along with his 13 points, George had 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals with a +/- of +12. It was a great showing for him and an all around great sign for the Pacers. Paul George made his first shot attempt and didn’t look out of shape, or as rusty as some expected. More than likely George will continue to come off of the bench and play low minutes. However, I do expect to see him around 20-25 minutes once they reach their final three games against the tougher opponents. With Paul George back and looking how he did, the feeling in the Pacers locker room has to be upbeat. They are in complete control of their destiny at this point. As Nick Fay, writer and owner of Off the Glass said on Monday nights' podcast, no team is getting a player like Paul George this late into the season. Which is completely true, the Pacers are getting back a superstar in the making and a veteran team leader. With Paul Georges return, if they manage to sneak into the playoffs whoever they play could be in for a long series. This week will be “make or break” for the Pacers, keep an eye out!