In one of the most anticlimactic playoff races in a while, it appears the Indiana Pacers will outlast the Miami Heat for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Pacers loudly proclaimed this to be their goal to start the season. They pushed Miami to Game 7 in last year’s playoffs, and if that happens again, they’ll be hosting the series clincher this year.
For starters, I’m sure when the Pacers envisioned themselves clinching the number one seed, they didn’t think it would be like this.
Frankly, they have sucked lately. They are 3-6 since beating Miami by one at home last month. Those three wins were against Detroit (bad), Milwaukee (worse), and…the Thunder(???). The win against the Thunder proves there is still a good team living somewhere in Indiana. Despite how bad things have been, I think Indiana is still a lock for the Eastern Conference Finals. Here’s why:
The #1 seed matters to them –
At 35-6, the Pacers will finish this season with the best home record in the league. Despite two blowout losses to San Antonio and Atlanta at home the last two weeks, the win against Oklahoma City Sunday is an example of how good this team can be at home.
In any season, you’d take the league’s best home team with home court advantage in the playoffs. If that team has to get a win, you’d be smart to value the 35 wins over a handful of losses. No need to be short-sighted here. Indiana has some issues, but they defend their home court well. That’s a huge asset heading into the playoffs.
The game slows down in the Playoffs –
Another reason to believe in Indiana is the natural tendency toward a slower pace and shorter bench in the postseason.
Indiana made a few moves to shore its bench last offseason. They added Luis Scola, CJ Watson, and Chris Copeland among others. They almost broke the internet when they traded for Evan Turner at the deadline. None of those guys have panned out exactly as planned. That doesn’t matter as much in the playoffs, when starters regularly play over 40 minutes a game.
All playoff teams get better by virtue of their crappier players playing less. That matters most to Indiana and Miami. Their benches aren’t great…but they have the league’s best five man crew (Indiana) and the world’s best player (Miami). So who cares if neither team can play 10 guys? They won’t do it anyway.
A slower pace also favors the Pacers because their offense has been the main culprit in their slide lately. Zach Lowe covered it in agonizing detail if you’re interested. Suffice it to say, a slower pace and lower scores are just what the Pacers need. If they can get to 90 points, they’ll be in just about every playoff game. This leads to the third reason…
Their defense is still very, very good –
This is the main reason not to count out Indiana. Their defense is still better than everyone’s offense (except Miami and San Antonio).
And it was on full display against Oklahoma City.
They outrebounded the Thunder by 14.
They held Russell Westbrook to 7/23 shooting.
David West sealed the game blocking Kevin Durant’s three pointer.
Basically, they were the Pacers of the first half of the season. The team we all thought would challenge Miami.
Looks like they’re ready to do just that in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It’s playoff time! Do you think Indiana is back to its old self, or will they fall to Miami? Do you think they even make it to the ECF to face Miami?
Hit the comments and let me know!