- Teams: Indiana Pacers (48-17) at Detroit Pistons (25-40)
- Date: March 15, 2014
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
Are the Indiana Pacers the best team in the league?
That was the sentiment through the early portion of the regular season, but they have since loosened their grip on the rest of the league. What’s more, upper-echelon teams such as the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers have narrowed the gap, or perhaps even surpassed the Pacers.
Indy no longer boasts the best record in the league, and Miami is within striking distance of overtaking them for the best record in the Eastern Conference. Consequently, it’s only natural for some to think the Pacers are starting to fade.
Don’t let that fool you.
Indiana still has the best defense in the league, and that alone is enough to make them a terrifying opponent. The Pacers suffocate teams by escorting perimeter players to the basket where Roy Hibbert is more than happy to change shots and blow up plays.
Also, Indiana is a bruising physical team that relies on archaic basketball principles. The NBA strategy du jour involves downsizing lineups to spread the floor with shooters and open up things for drives and open 3-point shots.
However, the Pacers do not subscribe to such basketball ideologies. Instead, they play two traditional big men and surround them with three perimeter players. These are the type of five-man units the previous generation grew up on, and Indiana is more than happy to stick with historical precedent.
It works for them. Indiana’s lineups aren’t always ideal given that they contribute to their porous offense. Nonetheless, the Pacers defense is enough to put them in the championship discussion.
Can they win the title? We won’t get an answer before June. But until that time comes, pay careful attention to the journey itself, it might provide us with some insights before the postseason actually materializes itself.