Indiana Pacers Face a Different Challenge

By Jay Neal
Indiana Pacers
Kevin Liles – USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers have played their most challenging stretch of games this season over the past week: Four games against fellow Eastern Conference rivals that expect to be in the playoffs. After absolutely crapping the bed in Boston, the Pacers returned to Indianapolis and swept home games against the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat and New York Knicks. Indiana leaned on its league-leading defense to hold all three teams to 80 points or less in their wins.

The schedule lightens up from a competition standpoint, but there still remains a challenge.

Indiana hosts the Charlotte Bobcats Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the first of four games in five nights. After this game, the Pacers head to Brooklyn for the first time this season to face the surging Nets Sunday. After a day off, they play in Charlotte and Orlando on back-to-back nights.

The Bobcats, Nets and Magic aren’t exactly the Bucks, Heat and Knicks (obviously), but four games in five nights is always a big test for a team. This will be the second time the blue and gold have had this stretch of games this year. The Pacers went 3-1 during the previous occasion.

Indiana is arguably the hottest team in the Association right now, winners of 12 of their last 15 games. The statement wins over the Heat and Knicks have made the league’s national media and casual fans take notice of the team for the first time since last year’s playoffs. The Pacers are only a game behind the Knicks for second in the conference, two behind the Heat for first. It’s pretty amazing to see the team in this position after such a slow start and without the services of Danny Granger, who has missed the entire season thus far. If the Pacers keep taking care of business against the teams they are supposed to beat like they have all season, they have a legitimate shot of having the best record in the East by season’s end.

Follow Jay Neal on Twitter @JayNilla

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