Indiana Pacers' Paul George reacts after hitting a 3-point shot during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Indianapolis. Indiana defeated Toronto 91-84. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, left, and Warriors coach Mark Jackson watch a replay during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 76-74. Curry did not play because of a left ankle bruise. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
The Indiana Pacers and Golden State Warriors were the new kids on the block in last year’s playoffs. Both entered the postseason as promising upstarts with bright futures.
The future appears to have arrived sooner than expected.
The teams have parlayed the confidence gained from surprising postseason success into impressive starts this season. The Pacers (7-0) have been the dominant team of the league so far, riding a monster start from All-Star Paul George to the best opening in franchise history.
“We’re deep and we have a lot of guys who contribute and make plays,” forward David West said. “That’s what we’re going to need as the year wears on.”
Thanks to coach Mark Jackson’s defensive mindset and a series of smart moves by general manager Bob Myers, the Warriors are legitimate contenders in the West, a novelty act no longer.
“It’s been a huge change for the better,” guard Steph Curry said. “You can tell by the feel in the arena. It’s night and day. I kind of tell guys how it used to be my rookie year. ... Record-wise, we weren’t very good. It was a fun way of playing, the small ball, Nelly ball. But you want to win and you want to be playing when it matters. So whatever it takes to get to that level.”
Both teams have big games this week. The Pacers head to Chicago for a rematch with the Bulls on Saturday and the Warriors host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.
Here are five more things to watch this week:
■ LOVE’S OUTLETS: When Kevin Love was drafted in 2008, scouts raved about his ability to throw outlet passes to start fast breaks. Now that he has Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer on the wings leaking out whenever possible, Love has been flinging the deep pass like Peyton Manning. “He’s throwing missiles all over the place,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s a weapon for them.”
■ DAVIS BREAKS OUT: Anthony Davis was solid as a rookie. He’s been spectacular as a sophomore with the New Orleans Pelicans. Davis averaged 23 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.3 blocks in his first six games. Davis slapped 32 points, 12 boards and six blocks on the visiting Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, and gets another crack at Pau Gasol at Staples Center on Tuesday night.
■ CLIPPERS’ TOUGHNESS: After starting an underwhelming 3-3, Charles Barkley called the Clippers “softer than tissue paper.” Their toughness will be tested this week with games against the Timberwolves, Thunder and Nets.
■ WINLESS JAZZ: Utah’s youth movement is off to a painful start. The Jazz dropped their first seven games, so when does win No. 1 come? They host struggling Denver on Monday, New Orleans on Wednesday and San Antonio on Friday.
■ UBUNTU REUNION: Emotions are sure to run high when the three cornerstones of the Celtics renaissance meet for the first time since Danny Ainge dismantled the tight-knit trio. Doc Rivers’ Clippers host Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.
■ STAT LINE OF THE WEEK: Kevin Love, Minnesota, Friday vs. Dallas: 32 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists, 3-6 3-pointers. Love became the fourth player in league history to have at least 32 points, 15 boards, eight assists and three 3s in a game. Larry Bird, Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter were the others.