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NBA Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers Schedule Gets Much Tougher

David West Pacers-Hornets

Derick E. Hingle – USA TODAY Sports

Despite injuries and a mostly ineffective offense, the Indiana Pacers (17-12) are leading the Central Division. It’s where many expected the Pacers to be this season with the knee injury to the Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose opening up an opportunity to control the division.

Indiana has not made it look easy getting to the top of the division. It’s been a struggle against the league’s weakest schedule thus far. The Pacers have built up their win total against the NBA’s bottom feeders. They have beat the Washington Wizards, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers twice, which accounts half of their wins. They have also beat struggling teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Detroit Pistons.

The schedule gets much tougher in the next couple weeks. After last night’s win at home against the Phoenix Suns, the Pacers will face teams expected to be in the playoffs this season, including the Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat and New York Knicks.

This is when the Pacers show exactly where they are as a team. It has been good to see how they fought back from an unexpected 3-6 start to now leading the division, but it’s means nothing long term if they can’t compete against the better teams in the league. The offensive woes of Roy Hibbert and various injuries, including Danny Granger’s left knee issues, played a huge role in the slow start, but the easy schedule saved them. Now, it gets much tougher. It will be interesting how the team responds.

Follow Jay Neal on Twitter @JayNilla