The NBA is ever-changing. Teams can go from good to bad in the blink of an eye. But after their rapid decline last season, where do the Indiana Pacers now sit?
With Paul George not quite yet at an All Star level after almost a year out, this weekend’s double-header against the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers should provide a barometer for the months ahead.
How he might wish to turn back the clock to 2014 when it was Pacers vs Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals with the sky seemingly the limit. But only two starters from that Indiana line-up remain and a 2-3 start suggests it will again be another scrap just to make the post-season.
George, averaging 18.6 points per game, still looks like he can return to being a fantasy league must-have but with the indulgent Monta Ellis an offensive millstone, their side is 26th in scoring at 94.4, 27th in rebounding and 19th in assists. Their measured tempo is such that it’s unlikely they’ll be exceeding the 100-point mark frequently this term.
Miami have started 3-2 and they held Minnesota to just 84 on Thursday. With back-to-back’s less on an issue early in the season, Dwyane Wade should pose problems. And even though they’re only putting up 98.6 points per night so far, it’s come an ultra-slow pace. On the road, it’s worth a punt on their grind forcing under 194.5 total points at 2.17, even if Indiana at -2.5 appears promising.
The Cavs, on their own floor, will be a much tougher proposition on Sunday. Cleveland, with the league’s best defensive rating so far, are still shot-shy in Kyrie Irving’s absence but there’s definite signs of why they remain title favourites despite Golden State’s red-hot start. They’ll be a solid bet for going under 193.5 total points by putting on the squeeze.
Already, it looks like it will be another year of retrenchment in Indiana with Pace, above all, a rare commodity.
Best: Take Indiana at -2.5 against Miami at 2.20