There has been Oklahoma City, which lost its first four games of the season and then ripped of seven straight wins. There is the Denver Nuggets who started the season 9-1 and have won 10 of their last 12 games to take the lead in the Western Conference. But, the NBA’s hottest team of the day currently is the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers have won their last seven in a row (prior to a Tuesday night game with Cleveland) to join the 20-win club and move into third place in the Eastern Conference standings. What makes the streak even more impressive is the fact that the Pacers won the first four without star guard Victor Oladipo. The fifth-year star, who is averaging 20.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game, missed 11 full games with an injury. He returned to help Indiana beat Milwaukee 113-97 on Dec. 10.
The NBA’s hottest team of the day could have been the Boston Celtics winners of eight straight before losing to Detroit last Saturday. Boston is now 8-2 in its last 10 games and is 18-11 prior to a Wednesday night matchup with Phoenix at home. Indiana trumps the Celtics though by virtue of their still-alive winning streak, an 8-2 mark in their last 10 games, and the best conference record (14-3) in the East.
Even without Oladipo, the key to the Pacers recent streak has been on the defensive end. Indiana leads the NBA in points allowed per game (101.2). During the streak, the Pacers held five of their seven opponents – including the NBA’s leading scorers Milwaukee – to fewer than 100 points. Their other two opponents each scored 101. That kind of play will keep the Pacers among the leaders in the East.
With Oladipo back, the Pacers now have a solid one-two scoring punch with Bojan Bogdanovic who averages 16.5 points a game. Indiana is also getting quality minutes from PF Domantas Sabonis, the team’s third-leading scorer (14.0 ppg) and leading rebounder (9.9 rpg). Center Myles Turner has turned it on recently and has recorded three 20-points-plus games in the Pacers last four. Turner averages 12.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game and is a force on the defensive end.
There’s no reason to believe that the Pacers’ success cannot continue. Over the course of their next 10 games, Indiana will be tested twice. By Toronto. Both games are on the road. The other eight games are all against opponents in the Eastern Conference. None of the eight have a winning record. Detroit (14-14) is the closest. Remember, the Pacers have the best conference record in the East at 14-3 and Indiana is 4-1 against opponents in the Central Division.
The Pacers may be the NBA’s hottest team off the court too. Indiana made history as the first NBA franchise to hire a female general manager. The Pacers hired Kelly Krauskopf, former President/GM of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, as their new assistant general manager. Krauskopf spent 17 years with the Fever and also oversaw the Pacers’ esports entry in the NBA2K League. She is the first woman to serve in a general manager role in the NBA.
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