Taken during the second half of the Pacers game on Friday night at The Dugout Bar in Indianapolis.

The Pulse Of Pacer Nation: Fan Opinions from the Bar Stool

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

 

This Pacers’ season has been extremely interesting to say the least. The team has gone from dominant to seemingly bored to sad and, hopefully, back again. It has all made for some really entertaining games.

I’ve always said that the best place to catch “the game” is at a local dive bar. Why? Because patrons of neighborhood dive bars typically aren’t pretentious, and people are there to actually watch the game. Go figure.

On Friday night, I did just that, heading to a local watering hole to get the pulse of Pacer Nation. The Pacers were coming off their thrilling 84-83 victory just two nights earlier over their bitter rival, the Miami Heat, and taking on the Wizards in Washington.

MY JOURNEY

On Friday night I, initially, headed downtown Indianapolis to catch the game at one of a few smaller bars I like to frequent, but the massive influx of tourists (mostly from the state of Kentucky) was too much to handle. Literally, too much. The crowds in every single bar, to watch college basketball’s Sweet 16, were furious and I couldn’t spot a Pacers fan for the life of me. I walked countless streets but every result was the same; college basketball fans taking over a usually local bar. So, pen in hand, I caught a cab and headed toward Fountain Square — an artsy neighborhood on Indy’s southeast side. And what I found there was well worth the $10 cab fare.

Below you’ll find what your fellow Pacers are thinking at this exact moment in time.

Without further ado, I present to you the Pulse of Pacer Nation.

THE GAME

Washington Wizards vs. Indiana Pacers on Friday night, March 28, 2014: The Wizards would win 91-78.

THE BAR

The Dugout Bar in the Fletcher Place neighborhood (right on the cusp of Fountain Square). This place has the best hot wings, for the price, in the city. Just sayin’.

THE ATMOSPHERE

2/5 for the Pacers. I’d attribute this lack of enthusiasm to both the Pacers’ poor play of late and the Sweet 16 games that were on the other TVs. It got quite rowdy by the time I packed up and left.

REACTION TO HEAT GAME

I asked all of them: “What did you think about the win over the Heat on Wednesday?” As you can expect, Pacer Nation really loved that game.

Chris, who has been a Pacers’ fan for 25 years, said it was “phenomenal. I love that the teams hate each other. The teams back in the early 90s and late 80s used to hate each other and then people started becoming too professional and being friends, and I like it when teams hate each other. So, you could really see that, the blood, they left everything on the floor. It was good.”

Ah yes. A little of the good old days. Troy, a long-time Pacers fan, thought it was a “Gutsy, gutsy performance. Exciting game, very physical. I think it was obviously a great game to watch and we came out on top, so it was cool.”

It was a great game to watch. In fact, it was the second-highest rated game in the NBA all year. Janice, whose favorite player is Paul George, said, “Oh, awesome. It was great. Really big win for us for sure.”

ARE THE PACERS CONTENDERS?

I wanted to see if Pacers fans believe that the Pacers will make the finals. As you know, Indiana has been knocked out by the Heat the previous two postseasons and is on a collision course with them again this year. Well, Pacer Nation is optimistic and pretty damn confident that Indiana will represent the East in the NBA Finals.

When asked if Indiana will make it to the finals, Janice said “I don’t see why not, at this point — we’re in first place and first place is first place.”

She has a point, the Pacers do hold a two-game lead over Miami for the one-seed in the East and have already wrapped up their division.

Troy got a bit more detailed in his reasoning as to why the Pacers could make it to the finals. “Yeah, I think there’s a great possibility the Pacers will make the finals,” he said. “I think the Bulls are a stepping stone, obviously. The Pacers have five guys that can contribute 20 points a piece at anytime, and they’re the quintessential ‘matchup type of team,’ and they’ll take advantage of you where they can. Other teams don’t have that ability.”

I have to agree with this assessment.

Chris is confident that Indiana will get there but isn’t quite ready to say they’ll be taking home the championship, yet. “I do think that the Pacers will make the finals,” Chris said. “I don’t know if they’ll win in the finals [but] they can win the East. The finals I don’t know, I think they’re shooting for the finals, and I don’t even think they’re looking beyond that.”

Worry about getting there before worrying about winning it. Solid advice.

ADVICE FOR THE PACERS

The Pacers have been struggling quite a bit the last month, so I wanted to know what these fans think the Pacers have to do better if Indiana to wants to take home the NBA Championship this year.

Chris simply and eloquently hit the nail on the head. “The Pacers need to become consistent to win it all.”

Janice thinks its about getting back to basics. “Sometimes they get too antsy and force shots,” she said. “You can’t do that if you want to win it all.”

Troy had an interesting perspective. “Down the stretch, watching teams like San Antonio and Popovich, the guys that are the greatest at this game right now,” he said, “[it's about] composure — just understanding your strengths and weaknesses and doing a very good job of accentuating that. Like Hibbert, Hibbert showing up is probably one of the biggest factors in the game. It seems like he shows up a lot when the game is on the line, so we’ll see a lot more from him.”

Becoming more stoic and focused, like San Antonio, would go a long way for this Pacers squad. I’m looking at you Paul George.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

SO … WHAT’S THE PULSE?

As you can see, Pacer Nation is willing to admit that Indiana isn’t perfect, and that they have some stuff to clean up before they can compete for the title. Instead of just stroking the ego of the home team, the fans I talked to know that the Pacers must change a bit down the stretch.

These fans certainly are “homers,” as they all are calling for the Pacers to win the Eastern Conference title. But, that is what being a hometown fan is all about.

Regardless, the Pulse of Pacer Nation seems to be two-pronged at the moment. Fans are excited and believe Indiana is destined for the NBA Finals, but they remain realistic.

Overall, I was impressed with Pacer Nation showing at The Dugout Bar. It was a group of very informed and friendly fans. I was also impressed by how well they can knock back the beer — although, that may have had more to do with the Pacers getting stomped by 13 to an inferior opponent like the Wizards.

Until next time Pacer Nation, cheers.

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