Bankers Life Fieldhouse is a sight for sore eyes for the Indiana Pacers (26-19).
After finishing road 1-3 on their 4-game Western Conference road trip, the Pacers return home and hope to get back into a groove when they face the Detroit Pistons (17-28) Wednesday night in the first of four straight at home.
It’s the start of an important stretch home games for the Pacers where they have a chance to climb back into the top four spots in the conference. Indiana plays 11 of its next 13 games in Indianapolis, where they are 16-3 this season and have won 11 straight. The two road games are against the Pistons and Philadelphia, teams that are fighting for the 8th spot in the playoffs.
Just because Indiana will be at home for most of February doesn’t mean it will be easy for the blue and gold. The Pacers will host every team ahead of them in the conference standings during the month. Games against Miami, New York, Chicago and Brooklyn will give them a barometer on just where they are at this point of the season. They also host other playoff-caliber teams in Atlanta, Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers in February.
Indiana needs to get back to basics to succeed in this difficult stretch versus high quality competition. The Pacers have leaned on its league-leading defense all year, but it was torn to shreds in the three losses out west. Indiana gave up 100 points or more in those defeats and opponents shot 52.3% from the field, very different from the 42% average Indiana has held opponents to this season. Defense is what Indiana does best and it needs to be in full force to take advantage of the home-heavy schedule over the next month.
Follow Jay Neal on Twitter @JayNilla