The Indiana Pacers play three games in their opening week of the 2017-18 season. How will they fare?
Opening week. Every team has hope that it can be a contender this season. Everyone has zero wins, and everyone has zero losses. Those records change for every team this week, and the Indiana Pacers are no exception.
The Pacers begin their season on Wednesday when they host the Brooklyn Nets. On Friday, they host the Portland Trail Blazers, and then the next night they play a game in South Beach against the Miami Heat. Let’s take a closer look at each game this week for Indiana, and let’s look at some X-factors in those games.
Wednesday, Oct. 18 – Brooklyn Nets
The Pacers open their season at home against the Nets, another Eastern conference team with significant roster turnover. Both of these teams are fighting to prove they are better than people think, and both teams have young players with something to prove.
Biggest Pacers X-factor: Myles Turner
In his first game as the face of the franchise, Myles Turner has some pressure to succeed in this contest. Thankfully, he should have no trouble doing that.
The Nets, after a crazy summer of roster turnover, don’t necessarily have the best defensive centers. Timofey Mozgov and Tyler Zeller both had defensive ratings over 109 last season, and Jarrett Allen is just a rookie, so Turner should have every opportunity to score and create out of the post he could possibly want.
Most likely Pacers butcher: D’Angelo Russell
Similar to Turner, Russell is also entering a new era of his career. He is now the face of the Nets franchise and the city of Brooklyn will be watching to see how he performs come Wednesday.
Thankfully, being guarded by Darren Collison will make him look great. Collison ranked 419th in the NBA in Defensive Box Plus-Minus last season, showing his inability to guard many players effectively. Russell should be able to feast on this matchup, and D-Loading vs Turner will be an entertaining story to watch.
Friday, Oct. 20 – Portland Trail Blazers
In their second game of the season, the Pacers host a Western Conference team hoping to make a jump in the standings this season, the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers fly in after playing their season opener on Wednesday in Phoenix.
Biggest Pacers X-factor: Thaddeus Young
With questions about who the starting power forward will be in Portland still clouding the Trail Blazers locker room, all eyes will be on Thaddeus Young. Whether or not it is Noah Vonleh or Al-Farouq Aminu, Thaddeus Young should be able to stretch the floor against a weaker defensive team and could have a nice statistical game.
Thaddeus Young is also a caretaker who can do it all. Against a Portland team who ranked 16th in total turnovers and 25th in steals last season, he should be able to have a nice game keeping the ball in the Pacers’ hands.
Most likely Pacers butcher: Damian Lillard
Basically, just read the part above about D’Angelo Russell.
Lillard is an All-Star point guard who can score at will; whoever is guarding him doesn’t have much of a chance. In his two games against the Pacers last season, Lillard scored 61 points and was a +25. The Pacers don’t, and probably won’t, have an answer for him.
Saturday, Oct. 21 – Miami Heat
To close out the week, the Pacers travel to Miami for their first road game of the season. You can probably pencil this one in as a loss. Miami looks to be the better team, but to make things even more challenging for Indiana, the game is on the road and the Pacers are playing on a back-to-back. The Heat will not have played since Wednesday, so they will be fresh and ready to go for the exhausted Indiana Pacers.
Biggest Pacers X-factor: The bench
Miami is a uniquely built team in that while they don’t have any All-Stars, they have many talented players. Their depth is their biggest weapon.
The Pacers’ starting lineup is solid and can hang with Miami. However, this game will largely be decided on how well the reserves play against the likes of Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, and Okaro White. It’s up to the Pacers bench to try and keep up with that second unit.
Most likely Pacers butcher: Hassan Whiteside
The Pacers struggle in the place Whiteside excels most: on the glass.
Last season, Indiana was 26th in team rebounding. Whiteside was third among all players in rebounding and was one of five players to grab over 1,000 boards. He is going to feast on Saturday and is essentially a lock for a double-double.
Last year against the Pacers, Whiteside had 60 (!) rebounds in three games against Indiana. So, yeah, he’s going to do well against the Pacers.
The season is long, but the optimism is high. The NBA is back. Indiana Pacers basketball is back. Get excited fans, the Indiana Pacers play meaningful basketball games this week!