INDIANAPOLIS — Another streak bit the dust Sunday night.
With their 106-85 rout of the Magic, the Indiana Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak in Orlando. That follows previous snapped streaks of nine in Chicago, seven in Boston, five in Toronto and four in Oakland.
A team that has posted a winning road record just three times in its NBA history suddenly has the look of a road warrior.
No team in the NBA has more road wins (eight) or games (13) than the Pacers, who have posted a 13-6 record despite the heavy dose of jet lag. This from a team that didn’t win its eighth road game last season until its 25th try.
“We’ve come a long way,” coach Frank Vogel said. “We feel like we’re one of the elite teams in the league. This team has an incredible desire to compete and to win, collectively. This team just has a collective mindset of grit and determination, to get the job done. They know that this can be a special year and I’ve never been around a team with the desire this team has.”
Vogel’s mantra since the end of lockout has been to take care of the home court and be at least a .500 team on the road. The Pacers are 5-1 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where they face the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday night (7 p.m. ET, FSI) before heading back out for two more road games at Minnesota Wednesday and Dallas Friday.
When the season began, this opening stretch of 15 of the first 22 on the road looked at the very least daunting, at most dooming. And yet the Pacers have not only survived this rugged schedule, they have thrived.
“I think it’s experience,” point guard Darren Collison said. “We know what it takes to win games on the road. In order for us to get to where we want to be at the end of the year, we have to win road games and I think everybody’s committed to that. We have the depth to do that and we’re going to utilize that as much as we can when we go on the road.”
Adding David West and George Hill to the mix certainly helped. Not only are they experienced veterans but both have come from winning cultures. Both also have proven to be difference-makers in clutch situations. Hill’s late steal and three-point play secured the win at Golden State, while West has become a go-to scorer down the stretch.
“We have a scary team,” Hill said. “We want to be very intimidating and solid at home. We want to be at least a .500 team on the road. We know every game in this short season is big. We want to take steps and be a top team in the East. Every night we have to play like it is our last.”
The Pacers also learned from their playoff experience last season, when they failed to win in Chicago and lost the first-round series in five games.
“I think the playoffs really helped us last year and it has carried over to this year,” Collison said. “We definitely have a lot of mental toughness this season. We understand that if we lose one we have to come back and play harder next time.”
Indeed, the Pacers have shown remarkable resiliency and have not lost consecutive games this season.
“The mark of a good team in this league is how well you perform on the road,” small forward Danny Granger said. “You’re supposed to win the home games, but the road games are the tough ones.”
After the Minnesota-Dallas trip, the Pacers will be able to do something they haven’t since the season began — unpack their bags. A team that has not played consecutive home games yet will have eight of 12 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.