The Indiana Pacers have been very clear about their intentions for this season. They want the best record in the Eastern Conference, they want home court advantage in case they need to win a Game 7, and they want to make it to the NBA Finals to compete for the championship. After years of working their way up the Eastern Conference ranks, their experience in a Game 7 in Miami during the Eastern Conference finals was a wake-up call.
The Pacers want to make sure they're in their own backyard if a Game 7 needs to be played again and their preseason talk of tryng to secure the best record in the East wasn't just talk. They've begun the season 7-0 and keeping track of the standings, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com pointed out following their 96-91 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.
"We believe in this locker room that we can get the No. 1 seed and we started the year with that attitude," said Pacers forward David West after registering 18 points and eight rebounds. "The fact that Game 7 of the conference finals wasn't in our home building we felt was the difference in a trip to the Finals, and we're going to do everything in our power to get a Game 7 in our building. And we have to start from the beginning of the season."
"If we're going to have playoff success, having home-court advantage would give us an edge," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We were 8-1 at home in the playoffs last year. To lose a Game 7 on the road, that's a tough environment. We're trying for that No. 1 seed. We're going for it."
Indiana got off to a slow start last season as they adjusted to life without Danny Granger. This season, they've been prepared thanks to the incredible growth and play of Paul George. The Pacers are a middle of the road offensive team right now while sustaining the top defense in the league they showed in 2012-13. While middle of the road on offense doesn't sound all that special, it's been hugely important for the Pacers that struggled to score last season.
They're beating teams by an average of 11.2 points per 100 possessions, by far the best mark in the league. Their pickups of Luis Scola and CJ Watson helped improve a bench that just couldn't get any scoring going consistently last season. The bench is currently eighth in field goal percentage after finishing 30th last season.