The Indiana Pacers currently own the third-best record in the East at 33-21, just half a game behind the New York Knicks, the team they completely obliterated two nights ago. This season, they have a 4-1 record against the East’s top two teams, the defending champion Miami Heat and the the aforementioned Knicks. Three of those four wins (two against Miami and one against New York) have been very convincing. How far then can we realistically expect the Pacers to go this season?
They got to the second round last season, and they gave Miami a hell of a fight. Their defense was outstanding, and their physical style seemed to get into the heads of the Heat players. Of course, it must be noted that Chris Bosh was out early in that series.
Anyway, the point is the Pacers gave the Heat a lot of headaches last year, and they have only gotten better since then. Is that improvement enough to take the Pacers to the next level? If by next level you mean the Conference finals, then yes. As for the Finals, well, that’s a different story.
If you look at the East playoff picture, the Pacers would have to beat both the Knicks and the Heat to get to the Finals. That’s a tough ask for a team with an offense that ranks just 25th in the league. Sure, their defense has been great, but that won’t be enough when they have all sorts of trouble putting the ball through the hoop.
I personally expect them to make it as far as the Conference Finals. Yes, I think they can beat the Knicks in a seven-game series with or without home court advantage.This isn’t just because of the beating the Pacers gave the Knicks the other day. I do think the Pacers are really the better team.
Their defense has been stifling. Paul George has really emerged as a star, leading the team in scoring while also providing excellent defense on the perimeter. Roy Hibbert has struggled offensively this year, but his defense is just as good as (maybe better than) last season. David West is still quietly sinking his mid-range jumpers. And you have to remember that they’re still missing Danny Granger.
Even with all of their improvement, though, I don’t see them having enough to overcome Miami. They are definitely going to be a tough out, but they just don’t have enough firepower to beat the Heat. I do not think their excellent defense will be enough to cover for their putrid offense.