By CHRIS GOFF
The low-key story of the season is that Indiana has a huge home-road split.
The Pacers are too good at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for nearly any opponent to win there; the fans have left happy after 13 of 16 games. In fact, the Pacers enter tonight’s game against New York on an eight-game home win streak.
Conversely, at 8-11, Indiana’s road record is just seventh-best in the East and ranks in the middle of the league overall.
Wrong question. It’s who gives, and the answer is Paul George.
For some reason, George is dynamite at home, and as ordinary as a Denny’s hamburger during road games.
In Indianapolis, the future All-Star averages 20.8 points per game, shoots a scalding 50 percent on 3-pointers and shoots 48 percent overall.
Away from the giant scoreboard, George averages 13.4 points, shoots a thermometer-freezing 25 percent from downtown and makes just 37 percent of all his shots.
Needless to say, the contrast is staggering. And because George has become the best player on the team, it’s a worrisome trend.
Nobody could cite the cause with much certainty. But it’s little wonder Indiana hasn’t stayed afloat on the road with George struggling – at least offensively – to the degree that he has.
Believe it or not, as a team, the Pacers shoot just as well on the road (42 percent) as they do at the fieldhouse. Roy Hibbert and David West are the main reason, as they essentially serve as George in reverse. Hibbert shoots 35 percent at home compared to 46 percent on the road. West makes just 41 percent at home but a blistering 52 percent on the road.
Where Indiana loses points, though, is the differential in 3-point shooting. At home, the team shoots 40 percent from 3, which of course is excellent. But at away games, the Pacers suddenly turn into the worst outside shooting team in the league, hitting just 29 percent of their 3-point tries.
Indiana does solid work defensively no matter where the game is played, but the bench, which has been an open sore all season, has a few role players – most notably D.J. Augustin, who shoots 40 percent at home and 24 percent on the road – who do better with friendly cheers whipping at their backs.
In the big picture, the most likely scenario going forward is that Indiana cools off at home while winning more often on the road. After all, only three franchises posted better road records a year ago. And how likely are the Pacers to continue winning 81 percent of their home dates when last season they could only take 70 percent?
In other words, Pacers fans probably have little to worry about. It’s far too early in the season to predict Indiana’s performance just on the basis of venue. At the current pace, the blue and gold would go 33-8 at home and 17-24 on the road. Undoubtedly, that would be one of the largest splits in the league.
The good news here is that a multitude of factors (quality of opponent, individual player flukes, schedule placement, etc.) line up as explanations. And, probably, this whole Indiana’s-awesomely-dominant-at-home-and-middling-on-the-road meme is all an accident. Just be sure to check with George first before you declare it so.