Stretch run no sprint for Pacers
March 30, 2012 -- In a perfect or even reasonable world, the schedule would not be a factor. Everybody has one with the same number of home and road games. Some might have a few more back-to-back games, others might have an unfortunate sequence of road trips but it all equals out in the end, right?
The Pacers certainly hope so, because they are in the midst of a hellish, quite possibly unprecedented, span of games.
The stretch run is not a sprint to the finish line, but rather a grueling test of survival skills.
Having just completed six games in eight days -- three in a row, a day off before facing Miami, a day off and then a back-to-back -- the Pacers took Friday off.
Starting Saturday in San Antonio, they play six games in eight days again -- three sets of back-to-back games, each separated by a day.
Add it all up and you get 12 games in 17 days, including four sets of back-to-backs and one back-to-back-to-back.
Small wonder they didn't exactly look sharp against the Nets and Wizards after investing so much physical and emotional capital in the win over Miami on Monday.
"You're going to have games where things aren’t going your way. You're trying your best, you're trying to share, you're trying to play the right way and the ball's not bouncing the right way, or you're a step late on some of the rotations," Coach Frank Vogel said after the Pacers pulled out a 93-89 win over Washington Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "I think some of our guys are a little bit fatigued from the schedule. Really the whole rest of the seaosn is like that. It's not something we can use as an excuse.
"It's something I've never really seen in the NBA, this lockout-type of schedule. We've got to continue to learn in the film room, recognize when they need days off -- and they need a day off -- and we'll get ready and try to beat San Antonio."
The last six games are an indicator of what to expect -- unusual highs and lows with unexpected results both ways. They had to rally from a 22-point deficit to win in Washington, then came home and lost a two-pointer to Steve Nash. Playing their third straight, the Pacers put it all together in drubbing the Bucks in Milwaukee, then looked like world-beaters against Miami. The next two games both were ugly.
Get used to it.
"It's really challenging both physically and mentally," Danny Granger said. "It's a process where you really have to take care of your body, you've almost got to get away from the game sometimes because you get such an overload of basketball. That's not really good but at the same time you have to stay focused and try to win as many games as possible."
Of course, they knew this was coming. One of the benefits of having a deep roster is the ability to better deal with these types of challenges. That depth has been, and will continue to be, challenged.
"Ultimately, it's our ability to compete and pick one another up -- maybe a guy's not having a good stretch, we're deep enough where guys can pick up the slack," David West said. "Everybody has similar schedules. Nobody's schedule is easy. We can't think teams are going to take it easy on us of vice versa. We've just got to come out and compete and continue to do so at the highest level possible."