This isn’t your uncle’s Indiana Pacers.
Long gone are the days of Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, Mark Jackson, and the Davis Boys. They’ve since been replaced by the likes of Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, David West and Darren Collison and there probably isn’t a more slept on 2-0 team in the NBA right now than Indiana.
They’ve started the season with two road wins against Detroit and Toronto, and continue to envision the Chicago Bulls every time they hit the road and that will be the game plan going forward this season. That’s an order straight from head coach Frank Vogel himself. Vogel has told the Pacers to remember back to last postseason and gain inspiration from that Chicago series each time they go away from home this year.
That was their first playoff appearance in five years and not only did Indiana win 10 of their last 17 games last season and were 20-18 under Vogel, but they’ve picked up where they left off this regular season giving even more credence to why they should be taken seriously in the Eastern Conference.
Last night’s win in Toronto was living proof.
After mounting a 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter, they fended off a Toronto rally with the Raptors cutting the game to two points after Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani three-point play with about a minute left in the game. Danny Granger hit a three, Jose Calderon trimmed the lead, but in the end it was David West earning his free agent paycheck hitting a jumper as the Pacers grabbed a 90-85 win on the road.
While one more playmaker in the backcourt would make Indiana and all-around threat instead of a postseason Cinderella, let us count the ways why this squad deserves some respect to open their season thus far:
– Roy Hibbert may be a raw talent, but he’s getting the job done. He registered his second straight double-double, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds against Toronto on Wednesday night.
– Danny Granger was an all-star in 2009 and this could be the year he goes for number two. He became the first Pacer to score 20-plus points in the regular season. Against Toronto he had 21 points and a season-high 8 rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot. Beast mode.
– Paul George shot 29% from 3-point land last season as a rookie and is now shooting at a 60% clip from beyond the arc. He led Indiana with four 3-pointers at Toronto with a career-high seven attempts. This super sophomore can hit.
– Bench work. Tyler Hansbrough, Dahntay Jones, George Hill and Lou Amundson combined for 15 points, 13 rebounds and seven of the team’s 20 assists. That’s a huge lift and trend Vogel hopes continues this season.
– The Pacers can run. The Pacers get to the line. But the Pacers defense is under-appreciated. Against Detroit, six different players blocked at least one shot and all five starters joined the block party.
It’s hard to tell what is more impressive about the Pacers right now. The fact they’re doing work with a combination of both young and old, or that some people around the league are failing to take them seriously. They are one of the youngest teams in the league with five players on their roster employing more than three years experience, while guys like West, Jones and Jeff Fester have at least eight NBA seasons under their belt.
More and more, the Indiana Pacers are viewed as a team known for being hungry and poised at the same time. That’s a deadly combination.
Your uncle will even dig these guys.