Entering this season, both the Dallas Mavericks and Indiana Pacers were expected to take steps backward. Neither team had committed to a rebuild and nobody considered either a serious threat to make noise in 2016. But here we are with such a year right on the horizon, and both the Mavericks and Pacers are poised to make Playoff appearances.
As usual, the Eastern Conference is far more open than the West and 50 wins in one conference puts you at the top while in the other it has you fighting for a berth. But both Dallas and Indiana have 14 wins as of December 15th.
The Mavericks are 14-11, 5th in the West. The Pacers 14-9, in a three-way tie with Charlotte and Miami for 4th in the East. Indy is coming off a 16-point win against Toronto, the team right above them in the standings, so the Pacers certainly have an eye for the top of the conference in a year where the bottom was supposed to be their ceiling.
This off-season, the Mavericks…well, you know what the Mavs did. The Pacers made several moves as well, trading Roy Hibbert and signing former Mav Monta Ellis, which the bossman Ryan Wilson wrote about here.
Of considerable note was David West opting out of $12.6 million dollars to sign a veterans minimum with the San Antonio Spurs. Of course.
Head Coach Frank Vogel –who for my money is one of the best coaches in the Association– has turned the Pacers into a grind ’em out offense into a run ‘n gun team. Lead by Paul George‘s transition to more of a power forward hybrid than a shooting guard hybrid, the Pacers are sixth in the league at 103.6 PPG. This is in major contract to last season when Indiana was 24th with 97.3 points a night.
There are few better stories around the sports world than Paul George’s return from the terrifying injury suffered during a Team USA intrasquad scrimmage in August 2014. “PG13” has come back with remarkable results. Always one of the easiest NBA stars to root for, George is 4th in the NBA in scoring with 26.5 points, also averaging 7.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.6 steals and is now shooting (and making) more three’s than ever. He’s hitting 3.2 per game on 7.4 attempts for a sparkling 43.3%.
Pacers: Paul George (illness) Game-Time Decision
Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki, 17.3
Pacers: Paul George, 26.5 (4th in NBA)
Mavericks: Zaza Pachulia, 10.4 (9th in NBA)
Pacers: Paul George, 7.8
Mavericks: Deron Williams, 5.7
Pacers: Monta Ellis, 4.7
Mavericks: Deron Williams, 1.3
Pacers: Monta Ellis, 1.8 (Tied-7th in NBA)
Mavericks: Dwight Powell, 0.7
How to Watch: 6:00 PM CST on Fox Sports Southwest