It’s safe to say that the Indiana Pacers are starting the 2020-21 NBA season hot. They’re 4-1 after defeating the Cavs 119-99 as of December 31st, with the one loss coming to a very good Boston Celtics team on the 29th.
They have some up and coming stars in Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, and TJ Warren, some excellent pieces like Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner, and fire-starters off the bench like Doug McDermott and Justin Holiday. It is early in the season and sometimes teams can get cold fast, but people tend to count out the Pacers. A lot of prediction articles put the Indiana Pacers as an eighth seed. Are the Pacers as good as these first couple of games or will they return to the status quo of the eighth seed?
Argument number one is the strength of the schedule. The teams the Pacers have faced are the Knicks, the Cavaliers, the Bulls, and the Celtics. The Bulls and Cavs are young teams on the rise with stars like Sexton and LaVine but still are not playoff contenders. The Knicks are….the Knicks. External bottom-feeders that may reach stardom eventually.
The Boston Celtics are the outlier in this situation. The Celtics made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and brought the Miami Heat to six games. On December 27, the Pacers beat the Celtics 108-107. It was a very strong team effort, even though nine players checked in for the Pacers. This came with a catch. That game did not have Kemba Walker. The next game, the Pacers lost a close game with the Celtics 116-111.
The other thing to point out is injury. TJ Warren, their breakout star since the bubble, is out indefinitely with a foot injury. This team could dramatically change in the next few weeks due to the injury. Their small forward position is by far their thinnest position. They only have three guys left with Justin Holiday, Doug McDermott, and Kelan Martin. TJ Warren was one of their best scorers and a focal point on the team. But who’s to say? This team could stay on course and be a player in the playoff scene.
Elite teams are supposed to beat bad teams by a lot, and the Pacers are currently doing that. The team is also being able to get points in semi-transition, which never happened under Nate McMillian.
Sabonis is showing us clearly that he is the best player on this Pacers team. Sabonis is averaging about 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists so far this season. He’s has a double-double Oladipo has been more efficient with the three-point shot off the dribble, 3-of-6 on threes coming off screens in four starts compared to 1-of-8 last season in 19 regular-season games.
He’s becoming more efficient in the past few games, possibly on course to be better than his MIP season. His points may be down, but they are the highest since that 2017-18 season. This team is by far better than last season, where they got swept by the Miami Heat and could be a contender when the playoffs roll around.