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Indiana Pacers are improving on the road, now playing like Vikings

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

Can you guess what part of this is Photoshop'd? (Getty Images)
Can you guess what part of this is Photoshop'd? (Getty Images)

The Indiana Pacers have been terribly inconsistent on the road throughout most of this season.

While showing almost no weaknesses at home, where the team has the sixth-best net differential in the NBA (+10.7) and the best home defensive effort (93.5 points per 100 possessions), they've struggled to get that to translate away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers have been up and down on the road over the course of the season, starting with a heavy road schedule and trying to persevere to stay near the top of the Eastern Conference.

As the Pacers attempted to learn how to survive without Danny Granger at the beginning of the season, they couldn't figure out how to score away from the Fieldhouse. Their record showed that, too. With 10 away games in the opening month of the season, Indiana struggled to a 4-6 record on the road. They improved to 4-4 in December before falling back down to 2-6 on the road in January.

But since then, the Pacers have not only righted the ship, they've found a way to become dominant on the road. This prompted Pacers center Roy Hibbert to give his teammates a very apt comparison, which inspired the photo above.

How savage have the Pacers been on the road as of late?

Take a look at their offensive and defensive ratings in road games from each month of the season. They've gone from being an overmatched offensive team that can't do enough for their stellar defense to becoming a really good road team.

Since the start of February, the Pacers are 8-3 on the road and have a net differential of +11.9 points per 100 possessions. Only the Miami Heat have been more dominant on the road during this time with a net differential of +12.2. The reason for their improved offense on the road seems fairly easy to pinpoint, too.

Before February, the Pacers struggled to make 3-pointers on the road. Maybe it's the sightlines outside of the Fieldhouse or maybe it was a certain nervous feeling away from home, but Indiana made just 30.3 percent of its 3-pointers on the road. Since February began, they've increased that percentage to 37.6 percent.

Not only are they making more 3-point shots, but they're also getting to the free-throw line a lot more often. They've increased their attempts at the line on the road from 20.5 per game to 27.0 per game during this stretch.

We already knew their defense was the best in the league. With David West and Tyler Hansbrough being physical with opposing people coming across the lane and Hibbert altering shot after shot at the rim, the Pacers have been good at turning away shots against them. But now they're matching their defensive output with an offensive efficiency to boot.

If this continues into the playoffs, you can expect these Viking-like Pacers to end up in the Eastern Conference finals.

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