Oh yeah. When this shortened season began, I was quietly optimistic that the Pacers could win around 36 games and end up somewhere around the 6th seed.
Sure they acquired David West and George Hill, but West was coming off knee surgery and Hill was predominantly a backup. 36 would have been pretty good, equivalent to around 45 games in a regular 82-game season. Considering the Pacers won 37 last year, an 8-game improvement isn't bad in the East when you would have teams like Miami, Chicago, Orlando, Atlanda, Boston and New York in the mix.
But now. after their latest 118-109 victory, the Pacers are 41-22 with 3 games to go, and have locked up homecourt advantage in the first round. I believe all they need is one more win and they've locked up the 3rd seed in the East, and given Dwight Howard is now officially out for the remainder of the season and the playoffs, things have to be looking good for the Pacers if they end up facing the Magic in the first round. But of course, if the streaking Knicks rise to 6th or if the Hawks or Celtics (unlikely) tank (more on this later), then the outlook could be very different.
Some random thoughts:
- First Danny Granger was overrated, but now he appears (finally) to be playing at the level we know he is capable of. He'll need to remain at this level if the Pacers are to advance in round one and have a chance in round two.
- David West has recently elevated his game to beast mode. West had 21, 14 and 7 today and had 22, 10 and 4 a few nights ago against Minny. He'll need to keep it up as well and I am confident he will.
- Seriously, is anyone still doubting the Barbosa pick up? The Brazilian can flat out play.
- The George Hill vs Darren Collison debate continues as Hill finished with 22, 5 and 8 today, numbers Collison almost never manages. Since Hill replaced Collison in the starting lineup the Pacers have won all 7 games and Hill has scored in doubt digits every game, averaging 15.4 points and 5.4 assists. Mind you, Collison's season averages are 10.6 and 4.9. Personally, I don't think anyone doubts that Hill is the better overall player, and Collison would have a much stronger case if his assist numbers were better. I mean come on, 4.9 from the team's starting PG is just not good enough, especially because we know he is capable of at least 7 or 8 per game, if not more.The only problem is that when Hill starts, the Pacers bench loses a bucket getter, though this is somewhat negated by the insertion of Barbosa. Who knows, maybe Collison will fit in better with the second unit when he returns. I guess we'll just have to see.