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Top 10 First Half Games

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

August 7, 2013

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On Tuesday, the NBA released the 2013-14 schedule. The Pacers have 17 nationally televised games (eight on ESPN, two on TNT and seven on NBATV). They play on back-to-back nights 20 times and will tip-off the entire NBA season on Oct. 29 – at home against Orlando.

Below are the top 10 games (in chronological order) to look forward to in the first half of the season – up to the All-Star break, which is Feb. 13-17.

Nov. 6 vs. Chicago (ESPN)

This Central Division rivalry is already intense and it’ll only heat up with the expected return of Derrick Rose. The Pacers and Bulls will square off twice in the preseason, but the atmosphere will be ramped up a notch for their first regular season meeting. The Pacers are the defending division champions and won three of four meetings last season. If they want to have the top record in the East, they must first win games like this and retain the division crown. The game is on national television and Bankers Life Fieldhouse will hopefully be full of mustard rather than ketchup, as George Hill likes to say.

Nov. 9 at Brooklyn (NBATV)

For the second straight year, the Nets have a revamped look. Last year, it was due to their move to Brooklyn and the new uniforms that followed. Over the summer, Nets officials went an unconventional route in hiring Jason Kidd, who had just played his 19th and final NBA season in New York last year, as their head coach. A couple weeks later, they made a blockbuster deal with Boston to acquire Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. Though past their prime, this trio compliments the pieces Brooklyn already had in place – Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez – and should allow them to hover near the top of the East.

Nov. 20 at New York (ESPN)

With their conference semifinals exit at the hands of the Pacers fresh on their minds, expect New York to be particularly fired up for this one. Playing in front of a national audience in Madison Square Garden only adds to the occasion. The Pacers will be in the middle three-game road swing, with Chicago and Boston on the either end of the trip. Performing well in that stretch could propel the Pacers out to a nice run - they’ll have three of the next four at home, all against low-tier teams - before they head out West for eight days.

Dec. 8 at Oklahoma City

The Thunder have been a formidable opponent for the Pacers over the last few years. Indiana dropped both games against OKC by double digits last season. The Pacers play San Antonio the night before and their visit to Chesapeake Energy Arena is the final game of the team's first five-game journey out West. If the blue and gold can tough it out and stand up to this difficult challenge, it'd be a huge road win.

Dec. 10 vs. Miami

This date is likely already circled in calendars throughout the Pacers’ locker room. It’s their first meeting with the Heat since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. While the Heat have mostly remained the same (signing Greg Oden and amnestying Mike Miller are Miami's only offseason moves of note), the Pacers have upgraded their bench with the additions of C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland, and Luis Scola. They hope that’s just what they need to push past the two-time defending champions.

Dec. 20 vs. Houston (ESPN)

The Pacers had a great offseason by upgrading their bench but most would give Houston the summer's top grade as they managed to land center Dwight Howard in free agency. That gives them a big three consisting of Howard, James Harden and Chandler Parsons. These two teams will have already played each other twice overseas during the preseason, in the Philippines and Taiwan. Two days after playing in Miami, the Pacers will host this new combo in Indy for the only time in the regular season.

Dec. 22 vs. Boston

This game cracked the top 10 because of the sentimental value of Brad Stevens coming home for the first time as head coach of the Celtics. He grew up in Zionsville and directed the Butler program since 2007. This will be the 36-year-old's first game against his hometown team. Since their blockbuster trade with Brooklyn, the Celtics are a few years away from competing once again, though four-time NBA All-Star Rajon Rondo is still on their roster.

Jan. 16 vs. New York (TNT)

The Knicks make their only visit of the season to Indianapolis on this date, as the teams are slated to only play three times. Carmelo Anthony and his cast were 0-5 at the Fieldhouse last season, including three L’s in the playoffs. It’s probably safe to assume that TNT will assign Hall of Famer Reggie Miller to the TV broadcast. The game is part of a four-game home stand, the Pacers’ longest of the season.

Jan. 20 at Golden State (TNT)

Pacers swingman Paul George has a bittersweet memory from his last trip to Golden State. Back on Dec. 1, he was 0-for-7 and went scoreless. But George responded, going on from there to emerge as an All-Star and team leader. The Warriors, led by Mark Jackson, improved their talented core by adding Andre Iguodala in free agency. The game will air across on the country on TNT and how it plays out may set the tone for the Pacers’ second and final five-game trip versus Western Conference foes.

Feb. 10 vs. Denver

The Pacers organization and fans will pay respect to former associate head coach Brian Shaw, who’ll be in his first season as the leader of an NBA franchise. Shaw was beloved by coaches, players, and staff alike for his honesty, kindness, and brilliant mind for the game. While they hated to lose him, everyone in the franchise wished him well. Shaw is sure to receive a very warm reception.

Continue Reading: Top 10 Second Half Games »

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