Recapping the Pacers’ “Make or Break” Run

February 26, 2009 in Basketball, Indiana Pacers, NBA by pacejmiller

Will Coach O'Brien be blamed for another year where the Pacers miss the playoffs?

Will Coach O'Brien be blamed for another year where the Pacers miss the playoffs?

A while back, after the Indiana Pacers defeated the Houston Rockets on January 23, their record was an unimpressive 16-27, good for second last in the Eastern Conference.

However, I noted that the team was about to embark on a “make or break” stretch of the season, where 13 out of their next 17 games were against sub-0.500 teams (at least at the time) and 10 of those games were at home.  If the Pacers were going to have any chance of making the playoffs, this was the time for them to make a run for the top 8.

The Aftermath

So how have they done?  Well, it was, as the Pacers have been all season, mediocre.  For the softest patch of the season schedule, the Pacers went 9-8, boosting their record to 25-35, 12th in the East and 3 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the final playoff spot.

I said back then that, given the Pacers’ record at the time, 10-7 would be considered a moderate success.  Not unexpectedly, they fell just short. 

However, if you look at the actual games during the stretch, you may be surprised by where the wins and losses came from.  They managed to get 3 wins against Miami, Orlando and Cleveland, the teams they were supposed to lose to, and lost completely winnable games against New York (twice), Minnesota, Washington, Milwaukee (without Redd and Bogut) and Charlotte.  They also went 8-2 at home and 1-6 on the road.

During this stretch, All-Star Weekend flew by, the trade deadline passed and went without any deals (ie Tinsley), Danny Granger hurt his foot (out 3 weeks), and Mike Dunleavy declared his season over with the same injury that’s sidelined him for most of the season.

What now?

With just 22 games left, it’s not looking good for the Pacers.  According to Hollinger’s Playoff Odds, Indiana still has a 14.9% chance of making the playoffs, down from 23.4% before the start of the dream 17-game stretch.  But to do so, they need to go something like 14-8, which would be miraculous if they managed to even come close.  This would be the case even if they had Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy and no injuries to anyone else.

So, to summarise the “make of break” stretch of the season: They didn’t make much progress in the standings.  Their two top scorers Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy are out with injuries, the latter indefinitely.  They are about to enter a tough stretch where the next 10 games include teams such as Boston, Denver, Portland (x2), Utah, Atlanta and Dallas.  To top things off, they still have Jamaal Tinsley.  Another forgettable year for the Indiana Pacers.  Time to look forward to next season.  The only problem now is that they are winning some games, which won’t get them in the playoffs but will, once again, put them in a position to miss out on the top picks in next season’s draft.  Oh, and they still have to get rid of Jamaal Tinsley.