On Thanksgiving, all was right in Indiana and it seemed certain that the Pacers would be headed to the postseason for the first time since 2006. That is no longer the case. Indiana is now tied with division rival Milwaukee for 9th place and would be on the outside looking in if the playoffs started today.
Sad. But are two of the Sixers, Bobcats, Bucks and Pistons actually better than the Pacers?
Or will the Pacers make the playoffs?
Having lost a little perspective on this team of late and having admittedly not seen the Bobcats or Pistons much at all this year, I reached out to some other NBA writers/bloggers/smart people to get their opinions on that very question. (It should be noted that I asked these people last week when the Pacers were still holding onto the 8th seed, so their perspectives do not include Indiana’s losses to Portland and Denver.)
The final tally of popular opinion among the 11 responders has the Pacers in the postseason by a margin of 8 to 3. Here’s who voted aye and nay. There full commentary is below.
8 Yes: Kevin Arnovitz, Zach Lowe, Royce Webb, Matt Moore, Marcel Mutoni, Tom Lewis, Graydon Gordian, Rey Moralde
3 No: Lang Whitaker, Mark Haubner, Noam Schiller
I’ve really liked watching Indy this season — their youth and energy and excitement are great. But I don’t think they make the Playoffs. I think barring total disaster, Boston, Miami, Chicago, Orlando and Atlanta are in. That leaves 3 spots, and there are about 6 teams in play for that. Even Detroit’s had a miserable season, and they’re just two games off the 8th seed right now. I think the Knicks are in, which leaves 2 spots, and if I had to guess from the remaining teams, I think Milwaukee and Charlotte are the best prepared to get into the postseason.
But if Indy does make the Playoffs, I knew it all along.
Lang Whitaker is executive editor of SLAM.
The Pacers will make the playoffs. That might be more of a commentary on the Eastern Conference than an appraisal of the Pacers’ talent. But they’re a well-coached team with an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball. That was good enough for the Bobcats last season and will be enough to punch the Pacers’ ticket this season.
Kevin Arnovitz is editor of ESPN’s TrueHoop Network and The Heat Index.
This is as close to a toss-up as these things get, with four flawed clubs — the Pacers, Bucks, Bobcats and Sixers — fighting for two spots. And the team among those four with the worst record — the Bucks — has by far the easiest remaining schedule. But I’ll go out on a mini-limb and say the Pacers sneak in. I like that their defense has remained top-10 quality all season, and this feels like a team that will improve on the other end as the season goes on. There is too much talent here for the Pacers to rank 26th in offensive efficiency. Toss in a so-so schedule, and I’ll give ‘em one of the last two seeds.
Zach Lowe runs The Point Forward for Sports Illustrated.
Will the Pacers make the playoffs? Is David Letterman old? Is “Hoosiers” overrated? Did George Hill slip thru the Pacers’ fingers? (Uh, yeah.)
For the Pacers’ opportunity to finally escape late lottery purgatory, you can thank the Sixers, who have found new and painful ways to lose this season. Plus I really expect the Pacers to look better in the second half of the season. I can’t believe that those wins in Miami and L.A. were meaningless, and I see room for growth by individual players and the team’s offense, which has been mediocre at best aside from one memorable quarter vs. Denver. Also, unlike Philly, Indiana might be looking to add talent opportunistically before the trade deadline, which could help.
Furthermore, the Pacers’ W-L record (like the Sixers’ actually) understates the team’s quality. So while they might not end the season with a 10-4 flourish, as they did last year, I think they can squeak in.
Royce Webb is an NBA editor at ESPN.com.
Absolutely. If they don’t make it, they need to fire Jim O’Brien and never speak of his name again. Granger, Hibbert, Rush, the NC white guy twins, Ford, Collison, Price, there’s zero reason for them not to make the playoffs. Not with Charlotte in the 7, Philly and Milwaukee the only other contenders. Both those teams are a mess this year, and Charlotte’s going to fall off with Thomas out and in the inevitable cash dump with Jack/Wallace. Basically, the Pacers are the coin flip of the Grizzlies, and it showcases the difference of the middle-Eastern and middle-Western Conferences. The Grizzlies won’t make the playoffs because they can’t get the hell out of their own way, and the Pacers will make the playoffs despite their inability to get out of their own way.
If I had to give a definitive answer, I’d say, “No, the Pacers will not make the playoffs.” But I do think there are only three teams (Bucks, Sixers, Pacers) in the running for the 7-8 spots in the East, and I do think it will remain close to the end. I also think Milwaukee and Philly are slightly better, though Indiana does have a schedule edge over the Sixers. It could come down to which teams can stay healthy, and for Indiana, whether Roy Hibbert can approach something closer to his November form.
Mark Haubner runs The Painted Area.
Can’t see it, and I’m the one who said they make it in the preseason. Hibbsy’s fallen off a cliff, Danny Granger jumped to look for him, and the team is still starting either McBob or Psycho T at the 4. Milwaukee is clearly better than their record, and should catch up with the Pacers, while Philly stays just out of reach.
I think the Pacers will hang on, mostly due to how awful the teams below them are. Charlotte will give them a run for their money, but Indy has talent and superior coaching on their side. Health permitting, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t get the opportunity to be swept in the 1st round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Marcel Mutoni writes for SLAMonline.
I’ll keep it on the positive tip and say they can turn it around. How? The recent emergence of Darren Collison has already dragged out better play in Danny Granger. Eventually it should help Roy Hibbert realize he doesn’t have to dominate but simply be useful to help the Pacers win. Adding a third scoring threat by committee, between Brandon Rush, Mike Dunleavy and Tyler Hansbrough should complete the team’s turn around and be enough to secure a sacrificial playoff spot in the East.
Tom Lewis runs the Pacers blog Indy Cornrows.
Basically, the question seems to be: Of Charlotte, Indiana, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, which are the two that will make the playoffs? (Detroit is right there with them, but they ain’t sellin’ s***, and I wouldn’t be buying it anyways.) So, yes, they make it. Indiana actually has some talent and Philly and Charlotte are gonna s*** themselves any moment now. Milwaukee … what was I saying?
I say the the Pacers make it, but they barely hang on. Indiana tends to turn it on at the end of the season and win games against the most difficult opponents such as the Lakers and the Heat. I get that they tend to lose to sub-.500 teams like Washington and the Warriors as well, but it’s not as if the other teams below them are much better.