After watching a fantastic Michigan/Ohio State game on ESPN last night, I noticed that one of the SportsCenter tabs read: “Who Are The Pacers?” I even posted the photo to the WNDE Facebook page.
The Pacers are leading their division, and are third in the East
It was quickly taken down, but it made me think about the answer. I’m not taking that question literally. Obviously, ESPN knows who the Pacers are. They were just here in town last Friday night to broadcast Indy's relatively easy 13-point defeat of the defending champion Heat. ESPN employees such as Chris Mullin and Jalen Rose were both on the 2000 Eastern Conference Champions squad. The Mothership knows the Pacers exist.
However, for those outside of the city/state that were wondering who the 2012-13 Pacers are, here is a quick refresher course:
The Pacers are… streaking – not in the Will Ferrell in Old School sort of way, but in the winning way. Since a 10-11 start to the season, the Blue and Gold are 21-8 and have surged to the Central Division lead.
The Pacers are… a tough out at home. Speaking of streaking, the Blue and Gold captured their 15th straight homecourt victory last night by beating Atlanta. It's the franchise's longest home win streak since the 1999-00 season, when they made their only NBA Finals appearance. The Pacers are an East-best 20-3 at home, and only the Nuggets, Thunder, and Spurs have better marks this season. However, they’ll have to get their road woes (just 10-16 this season) figured out before they can make a deep run.
The Pacers are… a tenacious defensive team. Indiana ranks among the NBA’s best in points allowed (2nd, 90.4 ppg), opponent field goal percentage (1st, 42.1%), opponent three-point field goal percentage (2nd, 32.7%), and blocks (3rd, 6.7 bpg). They’re also the NBA’s top rebounding squad (45.4 rpg).
The Pacers are… East contenders. Why not? Although they have yet to play at Miami, they’re 2-0 against the Heat, winning both home meetings handily. The Heat are at their best when the lights turn the brightest in May and June, but they look like a flawed version of their 2011-12 selves. Miami will be the favorite to come out of the East for the third straight time, even though they're certainly not invincible. As for the rest of the conference, Indiana has defeated five of the seven current East playoff teams at least once, including a 2-0 mark against Central Division rival Chicago.
The Pacers are… special, at least according to head coach Frank Vogel. After taking the reins of the Pacers following a three-plus year run of mediocrity under Jim O’Brien, the Blue and Gold are 31 games over .500 (92-61), and are heading for their third playoff berth under Vogel. His defensive philosophy (as outlined above) has transformed the Pacers, who ranked 23rd, 26th, and 26th in the NBA in points allowed in O’Brien’s three full seasons, into one of the top units in the league. Vogel's terrific work helped earn him a contract extension last month.
I understand that ESPN gives more coverage to the big market teams, and the flashy stars. You’ll see more about the Yankees, Lakers, and Jets than you will about the Pirates, Bucks, and Titans. Their job is to grab ratings (you may hate Skip Bayless, but you still watch), not to be an Equal Opportunity Highlight Provider. That said, maybe it’s time everyone got to know the Pacers.
If Indiana becomes what Frank Vogel says they already are, then this could end up being a special season.