Perfection is a bronze ring that is far off for any team in the National Basketball Association. That doesn't stop them from chasing after the elusive 82-0 record. The closest one group has ever come is the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls with their 72-10 championship season. While there is still a very long way to go the Indiana Pacers are putting together a run that has already drawn comparisons to a record that was once thought unbreakable.
Seventeen games into the year the Pacers have put together a 16-1 record. They have defeated many of the teams that were expected to be powerhouses in the Eastern Conference. Out West they have defeated the Memphis Grizzles and had a close match up against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday evening. The first test stretch that they will play through starts tonight as they will travel out to the Portland Trail Blazers who are tied for first place in the Western Conference. The San Antonio Spurs await to welcome them to Texas on Saturday, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat in just over a week. If they can walk out of these next games with a positive win – loss record then they would have not only put the league on notice but potentially that record as well.
At this same point in 1995 the Chicago Bulls were 15-2. Led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen they had already run a gauntlet of tough western conference teams in which they loss only one time. While their records may be similar these are two different types of teams on the court.
This Bulls team would be the group that would bring the second three peat to Chicago. Comprised of Jordan, Pippen, Dennis Rodman and a complimentary cast of role players they were able to dominate much of that year. This Pacers group is quite different as they do not have a marquee star at that can draw the same limelight as this trio. Paul George has been putting up great numbers in a campaign that may have him listed among candidates for this season's MVP. The other four members of the starting roster are averaging double figures and playing solid basketball in each position. Their bench also includes a good mix of youth and experience that is needed during late season pushes.
What's been most interesting to watch about this Pacers unit is that when games have gotten close late, which hasn't been very often, they have leaned on their defensive strength. Shutting down the New York Knicks in overtime and closing out a tough game in Los Angeles against the Clippers highlights how this team will play in close scraps. Their style may not be flashy, but does enough to have them sitting atop the NBA.
The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are the only team to ever win 70 games in one season. They are considered to be one of the best single season teams in professional sports history. The Indiana Pacers have a lot of work ahead of them if they are going to put together a run of equal proportions. This next week of action will show just how prepared this group is for the main event spotlight.