The Key to the Indiana Pacers' Dominance

As the midway point of the season nears, the Indiana Pacers continue a season in which they have perfected the art of kicking the butts of 29 other NBA teams. With an NBA-best 32-7 record, it is a perfectly legitimate time to begin the discussion of just what makes the Indiana Pacer so capable and dominant.

As tough as it might be for other teams to figure out, the truth is that what has made the Pacers so good this season is something intangible, something that isn’t for sale and can’t simply be bought or borrowed from anywhere else.

Yes, the rise of Paul George to the level of superstardom has assisted in pushing the young group over the cusp. Yes, this team has been steadily on the rise for a few years now. Under the structuring of NBA legend Larry Bird and coaching of defensive-minded Frank Vogel, they have gone deeper and deeper into the playoffs for three straight years.

I am sure I don’t have to remind you how close they were – a defensive stop, one clutch shot – to dethroning The King and advancing to The Finals last summer.

So, what is it? How can you describe the quality of a team that got them off to a mind-blowing, scorching 9-0 start, and currently holds the best record of both conferences? What sort of mindset could they possibly have to face off against the Heat – a non-division rivalry as embroiling and absorbing as any in NBA history – before the season is even 30 games in and beat them in 48 minutes of tenacious, playoff-atmosphere basketball worthy of being on pay-per-view? What in the holy name of Jordan, Chamberlain, and Abdul-Jabbar could be best attributed to the reason the Pacers starting five sat down for an ESPN interview a while back, instead of the standard singular floating heads of, say, Kobe or Dwight or Kevin?

Three syllables: Chemistry. Another word with three syllables: Family. The Pacers are playing as relentless as they are because, over the course of their rebuild into a contender, they have developed the trust in each other to know that they are going to make the necessary plays when opportunity presents itself. This is arguably the most balanced squad in the NBA, with seemingly a different impact performer in every game. It is from their steady build as a unit that they agree they are ready to reach their ultimate goal.

Take Lance Stephenson, a candidate for Most Improved Player who leads the league in triple-doubles on the season, known for his ferocious and merciless style of play that has come to perfectly characterize Indiana basketball.

Take Roy Hibbert, bona fide Defensive Player of the Year through the Pacers first 37 games, who brings new meaning to “restricted” when guarding the restricted area. His blocks – in which he is second in the league with just under three swats per game – pierce an opposing players’ confidence and soul. Oh, and he isn’t afraid to speak his mind either.

Take George Hill and David West, two equally impressive players who boast impressive resumes of being able to spark a run and change the momentum of the game.

And, of course, take Paul George, the most driven young player in the league who seemingly has something to prove to everyone, especially himself: he has plans for NBA domination, and he won’t take being beat – or being passed up by eight other teams in the NBA Draft – lightly. His drive can easily be summed up with a play you might have seen already and probably won't mind seeing again.


This group possesses mind-reading capabilities just short of supernatural – the team always knows how a play has to turn out, and who is the best person for the job. They are at ease with the way they play, but never get too comfortable. Their rise was expected and foreseen; not a complete 180-degree turn in the span of a year, but a slow, steady climb from the pits of mediocrity, its greatest chasm being the infamous incident at The Palace. Indiana is playing unselfish basketball, driven by their goal of winning The Finals, and pioneered by a core of young, relatively inexperienced players who have been on a journey to return Indiana to the precipice of the NBA universe. They won’t be content until they can bring the Championship honor to Indianapolis for the first time.

And in a state which has a history of passion for the sport, that’s just how these fans like it.

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