The Indiana Pacers are currently 4-6, sitting in the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference. After getting blown out by the Hornets in Charlotte, the Pacers had a home and home with Philadelphia, hilariously needing overtime in both games, and even giving the hapless 76ers their first win. They followed the loss with their first home defeat of the year against Boston with star Paul George out. Indiana now gets 4 games over the next 7 days, three of which are in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Monday, 14 November 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Home
On Monday, Frank Vogel returns to Indiana for the first time since Larry Bird and the Pacers' front office decided not to retain him as head coach. After 5 and a half seasons with the Pacers, Vogel was signed by Orlando after the resignation of Scott Skiles last spring. The Magic had one of the more perplexing offseasons in the NBA, trading promising shooting guard Victor Oladipo and draft pick Domantas Sabonis to the Thunder for forward Serge Ibaka. The move raised eyebrows across the league, seeing as how Ibaka only had one year remaining on his contract.
Although Vogel is known for his defensive approach to basketball, the Magic are actually tied with Indiana for the 2nd worse defense in the league at 108.3 points allowed per 100 possessions. Unlike the Pacers, however, Orlando struggles to atone for their defensive deficiencies on the offensive end, only scoring 99.2 points per 100 possessions compared to Indiana's 103.6. Most of Orlando's scoring comes from guard Evan Fournier, who is scoring 17.3 points per game. With the struggles Indiana has had on the perimeter to start the year, look for Indiana to give Fournier some extra attention defensively with Paul George switching frequently. This game also features backup Center Bismack Biyombo, who the Pacers should remember from their Round 1 playoff series against Toronto. Biyombo gives Orlando nearly 3 offensive rebounds per game, and Indiana has had plenty of problems allowing extra possessions due to their rebounding troubles.
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Home
The Pacers take on the defending champs for the first time on Wednesday, and the Cavs are showing no signs of a Finals hangover. Cleveland has burst out of the gate with an 8-1 record, best in the East, and are top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating. Reigning Finals MVP LeBron James is sleepwalking to a near-triple double average of 23.4/9.8/9.0 while shooting 48.8% from the field, and his fellow superfriends Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are both averaging over 20 points per game as well. Despite a lower scoring output than usual, J.R. Smith is still shooting a respectable 36.40% from long range. Indiana's bench will also have to deal with the ageless Channing Frye on the three-point arc, and do-everything swingman Richard Jefferson. This team is stacked.
The highlight matchup is clearly James vs. George. Perhaps the best two-way forwards in the East have battled against one another for several years now, including three playoff series. While no one can truly "stop" James, George has proved to be capable of at least making James less efficient than usual. While they butt heads, the Indiana backcourt will have their hands full chasing Irving, the Cavaliers' leading scorer at 24.5 points per game. Irving will most likely the main source of offense due to his mismatch over the questionable defense of Jeff Teague and Monta Ellis.
Friday, 18 November 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Home
The first game against Phoenix comes Friday, and despite the home court advantage AND Phoenix's recent struggles, the Pacers have experienced their fair share of blowouts at the hands of the Suns. Before Indiana won both meetings last season, Phoenix had won four straight in the series at an average margin of victory of 18 points. The biggest advantage for the Suns is in the rebounding category, where they lead the league with 48.1 boards per game, nearly 7 per game more than Indiana. Currently, Phoenix is struggling offensively, just scoring 99.8 points per 100 possessions, but their scoring at the top of the roster is fairly evenly distributed.
Phoenix's leading scorer is second-year guard Devin Booker. Booker made a name for himself as a dead-eye shooter last season, but so far this year, he is shooting just 41.9% from the floor and 28.3% from three-point range. Third-year forward T.J. Warren has seen a boost in his production so far, scoring an impressive 20 points per game while also racking up 2 steals per game. Warren's build gives him sort of a Paul George-esque build, but he still needs to improve his shooting percentages from long range and his defensive awareness. The Suns also get a bulk of their scoring from point guard Eric Bledsoe, who is contributing 18.2 points per contest. Look for this game to be another shootout for Indiana, as the Pacers' frontcourt will go to work against an aging Tyson Chandler (playing almost 30 minutes per game!!!!) and a still-developing Alex Len while Ellis and Teague have to deal with the scoring prowess of Booker and Bledsoe.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Sunday, 20 November 2016 at 07:00 PM ET Away
The only away game for Indiana this weeks happens in Oklahoma City, where the aforementioned Oladipo and Sabonis are currently flanking one-man deforestation crew Russell Westbrook. Westbrook is putting up MVP numbers once again, averaging 30.9/9.4/8.9 on the season so far, leading the Thunder to a 6-4 record. After a blistering start, the Thunder have slowed down considerably, losing their last three games, all at home.
The Pacers don't seem to have much of an edge in this game, other than the fact that OKC doesn't really have an answer for Paul George defensively. Andre Roberson is a solid perimeter defender, but has a size disadvantage going up against the taller, longer George. Indiana will have to win with their offense from George and the perimeter guards, as Myles Turner will be challenged all game by the Big Funaki himself, Steven Adams. Adams came into the league with great athleticism and a strong defensive presence, so going inside will be tough for the Pacers. Adams and fellow center Enes Kanter are also turning into solid scoring options for the Thunder, so look for plenty of drive and drop-offs from Westbrook to either of those two.
Prediction for the week: 2 wins (Orlando, Phoenix), 2 losses (Cleveland, @Oklahoma City)?