The Brooklyn Nets, after an ugly overtime loss Friday night at the hands of the Washington Wizards, don’t have much time to dwell; they take on the Indiana Pacers at home tonight at 7:30 P.M. The Pacers are the only undefeated team left in the NBA at 6-0, and they’ve done it with absolutely swallowing defense, leading the NBA by allowing a minsicule 87.5 points per 100 possessions. (To compare, the Nets — around the middle of the pack — allow 101.2 points per 100 possessions.)
To get an idea of just how good this undefeated Pacers team is, I spoke with Jared Wade, respected showrunner of 8 Points, 9 Seconds, an Indiana Pacers blog and one of the best team blogs on the internet.
TBG: The Pacers have a defensive rating so far ahead of the pack it looks like they’re defending college teams. Roy Hibbert’s averaging almost five blocks per game and opponents have shot 27% against their starting 5. How sustainable is their defense, and how good is it really?
Jared Wade: Obviously, these numbers aren’t sustainable. It’s just not possible to put up such unthinkable stats. But this defense is astonishing, and I fully expect them to be the toughest team to score against all season. Last year, with a 99.8 defensive rating, they became the first team since the Celtics in 2008 to let up less than 100 points per possession (excluding the low-scoring lockout-shorted season). With another year of continuity under Frank Vogel, and a full season for Hibbert following his confidence-building, breakout 2013 playoff performance, they should only continue to improve.
TBG: Paul George (25.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 4.3 APG, .409 3P%) looks like he might be in the running for the most improved player of the year… AGAIN. Where would you rank him in the NBA, and how much better can he get?
JW: Rankings are tough, but he’s a no-brainer for the top 15. Honestly, he’s just learning how to score. He can, and will, continue to improve. Last year, he was erratic, sloppy and not always confident with the ball in his hands. Now, he is just so calm and steady. That change in his comfort level on the court was his first step towards reaching his vast potential. Now he can truly start to learn all the subtle nuances involved in beating his man and putting both himself and his teammates in great positions to score.
TBG: Prediction time. The Nets are undefeated at home, the Pacers are undefeated, period. Which streak lasts tonight?
JW: Both teams are on a back to back, and this will be Indiana’s fourth game in five nights. Normally, that would make me expect the home team to win, but the Pacers are playing so well right now and with so much confidence that I’ll pick them to retain their unblemished record against the struggling Nets.