Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Waiting on the Pacers vs. Supersonics

The Supes come to town having lost their last 15 road games, so with the Pacers' loss on Monday this shapes up as a not just a must win but also a should win game for the Pacers. In the recent past, losing a "should win" game has been a problem for the Pacers that halts any progress or momentum that seems to be building. For instance, in November, the Pacers followed up a tough loss to Chicago with a blow out loss at Boston. In late December, with a little momentum building after wins against Houston and Detroit, they lose their next game to Charlotte at home. Two steps forward one step back, never able to build up a head of steam.

Now in February, with some new faces and confidence building, they throw up a clunker against Golden State. Fine. I can live with that if they get back on track with a solid effort against a team they should beat at home. But a loss against the Supes and the team is right back where it was on day one after the trade.

Many around town are still basking in the glow of the Colts' success. The Pacers have a chance to catch the eye of a lot of fans that haven't focused on the team for a month or so. With five winnable home games over the next couple of weeks, it's now or never. The team has played at a better level over the past few weeks so now is the time to show off that progress give a attentive fan base a reason to get fired up about basketball again.

Bruno's preview has a nice look at Jermaine O'Neal's defensive prowess so far this year. As I mentioned in this post, JO's defensive credentials can't be ignored. Remarkably, he is closing in on the franchise record for blocks currently held by Rik Smits. It doesn't seem like JO has been here long enough to start rattling off franchise records. But, in his seventh season he has set two in one week when you include the number of All-Star appearances by a Pacer. JO is happy that his defensive effort if producing results.

"To me, (taking a charge) is just as good as a blocked shot because it gives us an extra possession and takes a possession away from the other guys," he said. "You've got to be able to do whatever's necessary to get the ball back. You pay for it the next day when you wake up but all in all it gives you the opportunity to take control of a game, to slow a run down, to pick up your team's run.

"It's something I think about going into every game – taking charges, blocking shots and rebounding the basketball. Scoring, I don't really think about as much and that's been the difference in my defensive play this year."

JO is playing like the franchise player he is by putting forth an effort at both ends of the court that sets a standard for the rest of his teammates to match.

Jamaal Tinsley's ankle is bothering him so he joins Marquis Daniels with a status of day-to-day. With JT's focus on games played, I plan to see him give it a go on Wednesday night.

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