It’s fun to write about a team that has talent and a legit shot at a deep playoff run.
Certainly it beats the heck out of the alternative, and it gives me something to look forward to in the month of May (and possibly beyond) other than my beloved Indianapolis 500, and that too is great.
By now you have also heard all of the predictions the talking heads and beat writers have made as they size up Indiana’s chances in an apparent guaranteed Eastern Conference Finals matchup between the Pacers and the defending NBA Champions from South Beach.
While I still think the Chicago Bulls will have something to say about that, there is one element missing from the Pacer portfolio that must be corrected if they are looking to taste the victory champagne.
They must win more regular season games on the road than ever before!
Last year’s version of the Blue and Gold was a game under 500 on the road and that simply will not cut it in terms of championship caliber basketball. It cost them dearly in terms of home court advantage in their final playoff series as it gave their opponent the decisive game seven at home.
Miami hammered out a splendid 29-12 mark on the road last year, and while they wear the proverbial bull’s-eye on their collective backs when they enter an arena on the road, they have unlike the Pacers, shown they can get it done as the visiting opposition just as they generally do at home. Yes, the Pacers starting core is formidable, and the bench has been upgraded, but the fact remains that Indiana has struggled often on the road historically, and that trend will have to be reversed for the Pacers to have any chance at hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy next June.
Clearly there have been some encouraging signs early in this new season with the Pacers going 3-1 to date away from the friendly confines of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. However, with two of those wins coming from contests against teams that will not be around come playoff time, they really have not been road tested outside of a thumping they took in Chicago and a game in Brooklyn that should not of been as close as it was.
That test is indeed on the horizon with a West Coast road trip in December in addition to a trip to Miami. January is no kinder with yet another trek out West to play the factions the first trip did not include, as well as trips to Atlanta and Toronto, to face teams that have given Indiana fits in recent history.
Yes naysayers, I am extremely impressed with the Pacers quick start to the regular season, as it has not been that long ago they were struggling with many of those non playoff teams at home. For the record, the Pacers did not just beat those teams at home as they came charging out of the gate this season, they for the most part dominated them, and indeed that is encouraging as well.
Is this team capable of winning a large majority of their road games? Time will tell, but they must improve dramatically on the road to have a chance come playoff time.
How many games do you say? Well 10 games above .500 sure sounds good, but that is a leap that will be both challenging and serious. The other side of that coin is there is no acceptable reason they cannot play at the same high level on the road as they do at home. Back to back games, injuries, and the occasional night when nothing at all works are all part of the NBA. Miami has fought through this for two years now on the way to championships and the Pacers must too if they want to supplant the Heat. Prediction: The Pacers finish five games above .500 on the road this season.
Notes: All Pacers road games can be seen on Fox Sports Midwest or listened to on The Fan-FM (107.5).
Chris Denari brings you the play by play on the tube and Mark Boyle calls it on the radio airwaves.
Danny Bridges, who thinks winning on the road in the NBA is an art, can be reached at (317) 578-1780 or at Bridgeshd@aol.com.