With the recent turn-back-the-clock play of Dwayne Wade, NBA heads are already awarding the Miami Heat that third straight NBA c’hip after a handful of games.
But Paul George and the Indiana Pacers might have something to say about that. After last night’s 91-84 shutdown of the Raptors, the Pacers are the NBA’s lone undefeated team at 6-0.
The Pacers fell to Miami in seven grueling Eastern Conference Finals games last season, but they played the Heat as competitively as anybody. If not for that King James buzzer-beater in Game 1, the Pacers might be the defending champions.
The Pacers are a year older and deeper with neurosurgeon focus and an even more suffocating D. It’s evident they returned to ball this season, on a mission to do something very special—like K. Michelle’s rump shaker.
The Pacers surge towards greatness doesn’t quite have the feeling of when the Bad Boy Pistons finally got over the hump or when Jordan’s Bulls finally broke through because LBJ is not a diminishing star. As long as he's punishing paint, Miami can’t be considered a deteriorating dynasty.Still, Indiana is not far off, shaping up to be an elite team and is already making people re-access their 2014 NBA World Champion picks.
When OKC made that run to the finals in 2011, many folks picked them to take that next step the following season, but they lost James Harden and just weren’t as lethal.
The Pacers don’t have that problem. They are more mature, deeper and playing with a champion’s confidence.
Adding the 6-9, 245-pound Luis Scola and the continual progression of center Roy Hibbert and guards Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson and Paul George, have definitely made Indiana better. George, in particular emerged as a fringe superstar in last year’s playoff series against Miami and introduced his silky smooth, versatile game to the NBA world. He averaged a career-high 17.4 ppg last season and became Indiana’s go-to guy in crunchtime. This season he has become a full-fledged stud, averaging 25.3 ppg and chipping in 8.2 boards a game.
To put the Pacers early-season success into perspective, the last time the team started 6-0 was in 1970. That season Indiana went 58-26 and finished in first-place in the ABA’s Western Division. Similar to this Pacers squad featuring Hibbert in the post, the anchor of that ’70 team was center Mel Daniels, who averaged 21 points and 18 rebounds per game enroute winning league MVP honors.
NBA TV provided a list of how society has changed since the Indiana Pacers last started the season with wins in their first six games:
1. Richard Nixon was a promising U.S. President .The world had no ideas that four years later the Watergate scandal would eventually lead to Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974—the only resignation of a U.S. president to date. The scandal also resulted in the indictment, trial, conviction, and incarceration of 43 people, dozens of whom were Nixon's top administration officials.
2. A gallon of gas was 36 cents. You can’t get a sheet of toilet paper with that now.
3. The No. 1 jam on the Billboard Charts was “I’ll be there” by the Jackson 5.
4. Larry Bird was a dusty-blonde, 13-year-old, unknown phenom, who was killing cats and rattling rims in the dusty old gyms and rickety backyard hoops of French Lick, Indiana.
5. Shadow League Bonus: Brazil (considered by many as the most talented squad ever) defeated Italy 4-1 to win the 1970 World Cup. The team featured the incomparable Pele and the matchup had transcending political and social significance to it because it was the first contest to be televised in color. It would be Pele’s final of three World Cup wins with Brazil, and one of the shining moments in his athletic career. He was an influential force, legendry ambassador and international political conflict healer .