Pacers Sprint to Finish Line

Posted by By at 23 March, at 15 : 11 PM Print

With 11 games to go, the Indiana Pacers have the majority of their season in the rear view mirror and looking ahead at a potential playoff match-up with either the Bulls or Celtics. Okay, so maybe that isn’t exactly something to be looking forward to, but with a 2 game lead over both Milwaukee and Charlotte for the 8th seed in the East they’ll take it. Earlier in the season the idea of playoffs (since we’re speaking of an Indiana based team, feel free to insert Jim Mora voice) seemed like a pipe dream, but enter Frank Vogel and a new energy and the “P word” is being uttered Indianapolis.

When you take a look at the Pacers, they’ve got a pretty solid mix of players,  and it’s looking like it will come down to them and Milwaukee for the final spot. Stephen Jackson’s hamstring injury came at a bad time for the Bobcats, as the majority of their offense goes through him. The longer he’s out, the bleaker the chances look of them making a real run.

To no one’s surprise Danny Granger has been the catalyst for the Pacers success this season. The 6’9” swingman leads the team in scoring yet again this season, although his average is down a bit from the last two seasons. The decrease in scoring has more to do with the increased help he’s getting this year than it does a lack of production on his part. A proven go-to guy, he will never shy away from having the ball in his hands with the game on the line. New York Knicks fans know all about that.

Darren Collison picked up his play towards the end of last season and has picked up right where he left off this season. One of the quickest point guards in the league, Collison’s ability to penetrate and break down defenses has created more open looks for everyone. He’s averaging 5.1 assists on the season and 7.5 over his last 7. The Pacers are 4-3 in those games. His improved play will be much needed down the stretch if the Pacers are going to hold off the Bobcats and Bucks.

Watching Roy Hibbert evolve into the paint presence that was expected of him when he was taken in the 1st round in the 2008 draft might be the biggest reason the Pacers might be more equipped this year to finish the season in the playoffs for the first time since 2005. He played in 69 games last year and has played in the same number of games so far this year. He averaged 11.7 ppg last year, 12.6 this year. Had 131 blocks through 69 last year and has 128 so far this year. But where he’s made the biggest jump has been his domination on the glass. Last year he had 464 rebounds. Already this year, he’s got 530. If the Celtics end up catching the Bulls for the #1 seed, Hibbert could be a tough match-up down low for a team that recently lost Kendrick Perkins and are without both Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal.

With Tyler Hansbrough taking advantage of his increase playing time to the tune of 20 points and 7 rebounds per over his last 9, Brandon Rush providing offense off the bench, and Josh McRoberts and Jeff Foster providing depth down low there’s quality on the bench as well. Then there’s the guy sitting at the end of the bench, Frank Vogel. Instantly  becoming a fan favorite after shortly taking over the team, his energy and positive attitude has struck accord with his team. He probably barely knew his way to the head coach’s office in Conseco Fieldhouse when he was already calling his team “one of the best in the league.” I’m not sure how many people outside of the Pacers locker room believed him, but he genuinely did and that’s what matters. He did a good job of convincing his players too, as they won 7 of his first 8 games as interim head coach. I think we can be pretty safe in assuming the “interim” tag will be removed at the end of the season.

With a game against the Bobcats next on the schedule and the Bucks coming to town April 1st the Pacers could make large strides to securing that last playoff spot in those two games. With Boston, New Orleans, Atlanta, New York, and Orlando also all to get past in the final 11 games the Pacers will get to see what they’re made of against playoff bound teams. If they can make it through those games with a 3-2 record or better, with Atlanta & New York I see as definite possible wins and one against any of the other three, confidence will be high and at that point Vogel shouldn’t have much motivating to do in his pre-game speeches. With one of the better fan bases in the league, it’s always good to see the Pacers in the playoffs. 71 down and only 11 to go to see if fans in Indiana are talking “Playoffs!”

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  1. Zig, 9 years ago Reply

    Getting rid of Obrien really let these guys loose….They are a good young team on the rise…with some nice pieces

  2. Mikee, 9 years ago Reply

    They look like they have a grip on the 8th. after Grangers game yesterday, maybe hes turned a corner also. Hibbert is playing huge too, so u never know!

  3. RajonRondosDaddy, 9 years ago Reply

    These guys look not so bad. They just dont seem to have any inside presence. Hibbert, hansborough and McROberts arent so intimidating. Like at all!

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