The Indiana Pacers took another step toward the ultimate goal of getting to the Conference Finals. All along, I have believed that this season would be judged upon how well the team would do in the playoffs. The Pacers won the division title, and not much was made of that because it was almost expected once Derrick Rose went down for the Chicago Bulls. I felt like this Pacers team was good enough to win even with a full strength Bulls team, but it would have been a battle. No other team in the Central Division was even close to battling for the title, so if the Pacers wouldn’t have won that title, it could have been a disappointment. But they end up winning, and get the third seed in the Conference after faltering in the last few games of the game.
Those last six games of the season, it was downright ugly. One win, and I was questioning how ready the team was for the playoffs. Even going against Atlanta, I figured that would be a tough series, and then the Pacers come out of the gate with two wins. It’s like they did flip that switch. Last night’s game felt like that as well. This team is almost a Jekyll and Hyde type, where you aren’t quite sure what to expect. But it’s all about playing THEIR brand of basketball. If the Pacers play solid on defense, and hold their own on the boards, the game is in their hands. They can get up and down the floor if need be, but ultimately, this team likes those “boring” games. You might not see the highlight reels, but you will see offense that goes inside out, works the ball around for that open man. You’ll see guys lock down on defense, and hold their position for tough shots by the other team.
Last night, we saw just a great effort by the team to really hold their own. Paul George had to defend Carmelo Anthony for most of the evening, and he made life difficult for him. Heck the Pacers made life difficult as Melo did take some big hits along the way. But the Pacers will do that to anyone that comes into the lane, so you just have to be ready, and take it strong. An 82-71 win for the Pacers is right where they want it. Sure there are those break out games of over 100 points for the Blue and Gold, but if the Pacers hold the game under 90 points, it’s usually a win. Teams don’t like to play that way, but the Pacers do, and they know that’s how to win the game.
Now it’s time to just amp it up for two more wins, and the team is right where fans expected them to be in the Conference Finals. The town would be going crazy if the Pacers somehow pull off the win there, and get back to only their second NBA Finals appearance. But that’s looking too far ahead. Time to focus on game four, where the Pacers have some pressure to win as they’ve looked so good in the wins. It’s time to give the home crowd, who really came alive last night more things to cheer about.