The NBA: Pacing

Roy Hibbert and the Pacers have a gleaming
chance to be an awesome Eastern team.

*All images are from the Associated Press.

“… if we want to make it far in the playoffs, we can't lose more than two games in a row." – Darren Collison after the Pacers defeated the Magic two days ago.

Collison might be thinking a little too far ahead, but give the Pacers credit. If they keep true to their current trajectory, then the playoffs won’t be so far-out.

Collison actually said that line in reference to the fact that the Pacers have not had a losing streak so far this season. They’ve absorbed 6 losses already, but they haven’t dropped two in a row yet.

Looking at their stats makes it easy to see why Indiana has had a greater-than-expected measure of success thus far.

Consider these:

-       They have a relatively efficient offense: 7th in 3pt% and 3rd in offensive rpg.
-       They are a relatively aggressive team, getting to the line 24 times a game, and they lead the whole league in FT% at 80.4%.
-       They are 6th overall in defensive rebounds and 2nd in total rebounds per outing.
-       They are also top 10 in steals and blocks per game.
-       They have five guys averaging in double-digits, with Ty Hansbrough and George Hill close behind at 9.5 and 9.7ppg respectively.

The Pacers have had more road games so far, but they’ve been surprisingly successful, winning 8 of 13. And considering they are 6-1 at home, with 26 more home games coming up, it won’t be too farfetched for them to breach the 45-win barrier.

In nutshell, Indiana has been pacing itself really well, seemingly setting itself up for a nice mid-to-late season run that should give them a good spot in the East’s playoff race. And with the decline of Orlando, and the persisting struggles of both Boston and New York, this compressed season might just be the Pacers’ for the taking.

After the JUMP, key stat-stuffers for today’s games:

IND over NJN, 106-99 -          Paul George scored a career-high 24 points to lead the Pacers, who went on a 12-0 run in the middle of the third quarter to put just enough distance between them and the Nets, who have lost two straight overall and nine straight against the Pacers.
BOS over CLE, 93-90 – The Celtics barely held off the Cavs, and withstood Anderson Varejao’s 20-20 game, to avenge a disappointing loss to this same team two days ago. Kyrie Irving led another furious last-ditch Cavs rally, but this time they fell short as KG and Paul Pierce hit some key shots in the last minute.
ATL over TOR, 100-77 – In just three periods, Joe Johnson matched his season-high with 30 points. The Hawks wrapped up their most successful five-game road swing in more than four decades, going 4-1 with wins against the Bucks, Pistons, Hornets, and now the Raptors. Their lone loss was against the Spurs.
NYK over DET, 113-86 – Melo returned to the floor to score 25 points and help the Knicks snap a 3-game skid. For the first time this season, the Knicks shot above 50% from the field – a red-hot 60% at that! Meanwhile, the Pistons continued to struggle without Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Will Bynum.
MEM over DEN, 100-97 - O.J. Mayo hit a go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime to help the Grizz get past the Nuggets, and halt their 4-game slide in the process. Both Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol had bad nights on offense again, but they still managed to score in the 20s as Memphis went above .500 in the standings.
GSW over SAC, 93-90 - Brandon Rush scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, sparking a late rally that gave Warriors coach Mark Jackson a win over his predecessor.
LAL over CHA, 106-73 – Kobe’s 24 points improved the Lakers’ record at Staples to 11-2, while sending the Cats to their 9th loss in a row. Strangely enough, this is just the Lakers’ 3rd win against Charlotte in their last 11 meetings.

Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
Deron Williams (NJN) – 34
Joe Johnson (ATL) – 30
Anthony Morrow (NJN) – 28
Carmelo Anthony (NYK) – 25

Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
Anderson Varejao (CLE) – 20
Roy Hibbert (IND) & DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) – 14

Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
Ramon Sessions (CLE) – 10
Tyreke Evans (SAC) & Jose Calderon (TOR) – 9  

Ramon Sessions might be dishing out assists for a team
other than the Cavs pretty soon.

Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
Landry Fields (NYK) – 5
Mike Conley (MEM), Greg Monroe (DET), & Alonzo Gee (CLE) – 4

Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
Roy Hibbert (IND), Ekpe Udoh (GSW), & Tony Allen (MEM) – 4

Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
Anthony Morrow (NJN) – 5
A LOT with 4

Jan. 31, 2012 First Five
C – Anderson Varejao (CLE) – 20pts, 20rebs, 2asts, 1blk
F – Al Harrington (DEN) – 23pts, 10rebs, 4asts, 3 treys, 2stls
F – Joe Johnson (ATL) – 30pts, 7asts, 4 treys, 2rebs, 1blk
G – Tyreke Evans (SAC) – 22pts, 10rebs, 9asts, 3stls, 1blk
G – Deron Williams (NJN) – 34pts, 7asts, 4 treys, 2rebs, 1blk

Joe Johnson remains one of the most under-appreciated
wingmen in the NBA today.

Honorable Mention:
Andrew Bynum (LAL) – 20pts, 11rebs, 2blks, 1ast
Paul George (IND) – 24pts, 4rebs, 4 treys, 2stls, 1ast, 1blk
Landry Fields (NYK) – 18pts, 5rebs, 5stls, 4 treys, 3asts, 1blk

For a full summary of the day, here’s today’s NBA Daily Zap:

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