Mark Montieth's 10 Must-See Games In 2014-15
Editor's Note: For the official release of the 2014-15 NBA schedule, Pacers.com writer Mark Montieth put together this list of what are, in his opinion, the top 10 Pacers home games this season.
Here are the dates he's circling on the calendar:
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1. Saturday, Nov. 8 – Washington: The Wizards took the Pacers to six games in the second round of the playoffs last season, and should be improved. Their starting lineup returns intact except for Paul Pierce replacing Trevor Ariza at small forward. They'll lose defense, but gain championship experience that should serve them well in the postseason, if Pierce holds up. And, it's good to see Indy native/IU grad/former Pacers player Randy Wittman having a chance to coach a team capable of winning, for a change.
2. Wednesday, Nov. 19 – Charlotte: Suddenly, the Hornets have one of the most intriguing rosters in the NBA, at least for Indiana's basketball fans. This will be Lance Stephenson's first game against the franchise that gave birth to and nurtured his NBA career, but there's more than that to watch. Former IU stars Cody Zeller and rookie Noah Vonleh will be on hand, too, along with persons of interest such as Al Jefferson, P.J. Hairston and Marvin Williams. The Hornets made the playoffs last season and appear to be significantly improved.
3. Monday, Dec. 15 – Los Angeles Lakers: Fans root for laundry. They root against it, too, and the Lakers are always a draw no matter who's wearing the uniform. There won't be too many more chances for Indy fans to see 35-year-old Kobe Bryant in action, and that alone will likely bring a sellout. They also have newcomers Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis, who Larry Bird nearly drafted ahead of Paul George. Their new coach, Byron Scott, who hit one of the biggest shots in the history of the Pacers franchise in the 1994 playoffs, will look good in his suit on the sideline.
4. Wednesday, Dec. 31 – Miami: OK, the LeBron-less Heat aren't the draw they used to be, but memories of all those playoff games should be enough to excite fans. Laundry, right? They still have Dwyane Wade (whose participation in regular season games will always be doubtful), Chris Bosh (who cashed in on LeBron's departure by signing a five-year contract worth nearly $120 million) and other familiar faces such as Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen. They also signed free agent Luol Deng and, oh yeah … former Pacers Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts. There's a lot to look at here even without the game's best player.
5. Tuesday, Jan. 13 – Minnesota: The Timberwolves have been one of the NBA's most anonymous teams for years now, but their roster presumably will include No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins this time around, once the reported trade with Cleveland is official. They've also got one of the league's more entertaining players, Ricky Rubio, at point guard, and there's something for Purdue fans as well: Robbie Hummel will return to prop up the bench and try to expand on his rookie season with the team.
6. Friday, Feb. 6 – Cleveland: Duh. LeBron James in street clothes might sell out an NBA arena, but LeBron James in uniform, on a Homecoming tour, leading a team that's undergoing an outhouse-to-penthouse transformation, will be difficult to resist. The Cavs have more than James, though. They'll presumably (there's that word again) have the human double-double Kevin Love and one of the game's most promising point guards Kyrie Irving. If that's not enough, Pacers fans can always wax nostalgic over former second-round draft pick James Jones, who followed James from Miami.
7. Monday, Feb. 9 – San Antonio: In the first home game following James' first appearance in Bankers Life FIeldhouse, fans can watch the team that defeated James and the Heat in the NBA Finals last season. The defending champion Spurs are back nearly intact from last season, which means their teamwork clinic will go on the road for all to see. You know the names … Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and the rest will take on fate and Father Time in an attempt to win a sixth title for East Chicago native Gregg Popovich.
8. Friday, March 6 – Chicago: The Bulls were tough enough to beat without Derrick Rose. They'll be tougher with him, assuming his knees are still operating by the time they make their second visit to BLF. Joakim Noah is always an entertaining spectacle, and rookie Doug McDermott should satisfy the Hoosier itch for shooters.
9. Monday, March 23 – Houston: The Rockets appear to be a perpetual also-ran in the Western Conference, but they're bound to be one of the most interesting teams as long as they have Dwight Howard and James Harden. Howard, like it or not, is an elite center. Harden is regarded as an elite scorer, although he rarely showed that against Paul George. He'll be thrilled to not have to deal with George on this visit. Pacers fans, if they're so inclined, can boo him for being the guy who was shooting the layup that George tried to block in the Team USA exhibition which led to George's broken leg.
10. Sunday, April 12 – Oklahoma City: LeBron James might be the NBA's best player, but Kevin Durant is, for many, the most entertaining. What's not to like about a guy who can score from anywhere, at anytime? Unless George has been able to make a miraculous return by then, the Pacers will be hard-pressed to do anything about it. Durant scored 38 against the Pacers last season at the Fieldhouse, although the Pacers won with a more balanced effort.
Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.