Pacers Extend Lead in the CentralBy Marc U.
Could the Indiana Pacers be threatening to run away with the NBA’s Central Division? I must be crazy to suggest such a thing with the Pacers having a mere three-game lead over the Chicago Bulls with about 26 games left to play in the 2012-2013 season.
Remember, this is the Central Division we are talking about here though where a three-game lead could be viewed as a ‘huge lead.’
The Pacers are in the midst of a 10 game stretch where they have gone 8-2 while the Bulls are 4-6 over the same span of games. If you think the Pacers are picking up the pace because of the return of Danny Granger this past Saturday then you might only be half-right. Granger did indeed return but had just two points in 19 minutes of action on 1 of 10 shooting. While it certainly wasn’t the season debut that Granger would have liked, just the fact that he’s back is in many ways a shot in the arm for Indiana.
Throw in the fact that it appears that Derrick Rose might be coming back later rather than sooner in the Windy City and that means a little more spirit in the Indiana locker room.
The Pacers haven’t exactly beaten the ‘Showtime Lakers’ during their four-game winning streak but you take what you can get. Indiana has defeated Detroit twice, the New York Knicks and the Charlotte Bobcats. They will however get an opportunity to see just how good they are over the next two weeks with games against the Clippers, Warriors, Bulls, Celtics and Heat.
Both the Heat and Clippers are in the top five in scoring in the league so those are two games I’ll be looking at closely to see just where the Pacers are this year heading into the playoffs.
- Deng led the Bulls with just 13 points in a 30-point loss to the Thunder this week.
The Bulls meanwhile were beaten severely by the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday night 102-72 on the Thunder’s home court. Luol Deng scored 13 points for the Bulls and he was the leading scorer. If that doesn’t scream for the return of Rose then I don’t know what does.
Chicago is 28th in the NBA in scoring at just 92.5 points per game. Regardless of how well you play defense, you have to be able to score in the playoffs and that will ultimately doom the Bulls should Rose not return. The OKC loss is a perfect example. Chicago was able to keep the Thunder under their season average yet still lost by 30 points. Defense will get you places in the NBA, but if you can’t score then you are going to get very far.
Games to Watch in the Central this week
Milwaukee at Dallas – The Bucks have slipped to eight games back of Indiana and are eighth in the Eastern Conference. The good news is they still have a four game lead over ninth place Philadelphia. The bad news is they are 2-8 over their last 10. I like the Mavs in Dallas.
Cleveland at Chicago – The Cavs have actually played a little better of late going 5-5 over their last 10 and as long as the Bulls are struggling offensively, Cleveland has a shot and I’m taking them on the road in this one.
Detroit at New Orleans – I really believed the Pistons were going to make a serious run at the eighth playoff spot but it doesn’t seem to be happening. Prior to this game, they’ll have been in Washington and now they have the Hornets. If the Pistons are ever going to make a run then it must start now. I’ll take the Motor City Boys in the Big Easy.