When the NBA scheduled was created and shared over the summer, many thought the Indiana Pacers should have been involved in the Christmas Day games, but little did anyone know that it would turn out to be a good thing they weren’t.
Coming off a Game 7 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, it was widely assumed the Pacers would be the Heat’s main contender once again in the East. The Pacers rise to prominence was three years in the making, yet they still received no respect from the national media or the NBA.
The Pacers started the 2013-14 season with a giant chip on their shoulder. Beating the Heat in the playoffs wasn’t going to be enough for them. They knew the regular season was where they needed to make their statement, and make sure they walked into the playoffs with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Pacers have made their statement by starting 23-5 — a franchise record — and are currently in a three-way tie with Portland and Oklahoma City for the league’s best record. Indiana’s dominant start only added to the furor of them not playing on Christmas Day.
But when you really think about it, playing on Christmas Day can be an issue for many players. If you play a home game on Christmas then it’s not so bad, except you can’t return to your hometown to see the rest of your family. And if you play away, then you don’t get to celebrate the holiday with your immediate family in the comfort of your own home.
Not only was having the time off to spend with their family a good thing for the Pacers, but it was also good that they took the time to rest and relax. Indiana has outscored their last three opponents by a total of 77 points by playing at a high intensity level. Having four days off — they played Monday and they play next on Saturday — is more helpful to the players than having them play on Christmas Day.
While playing on Christmas Day is held in high regard, like NFL teams playing on Thanksgiving, it can be a pain for those involved. The Pacers have earned the right to play with the big market teams on Christmas, but now they have another chip to add to their shoulder and another reason to continue their dominant play.