Despite their recent struggles, the Indiana Pacers will enter the playoffs with something they had coveted all year – home court advantage until the Finals.
Dwyane Wade, by himself, was not enough to keep the Miami Heat in contention for the one-seed Monday night as LeBron James and Chris Bosh got some well-deserved rest. The Wizards, a team still fighting for playoff seeding in their own right, ran the Heat out of Chocolate City with a 114-93 win.
After sprinting out to a 17-1 record by the end of November, Indiana has limped home with a 15-14 stretch since the All-Star break. Rumors, speculation, and near-constant conversation has surrounded the team for the last month. After an embarrassing home court loss to the Atlanta Hawks last Sunday, Frank Vogel controversially decided to give his starters almost an entire week off. The bench travelled to Milwaukee and pulled out a tough victory on a Chris Copeland buzzer-beater, but after getting blown out in the third quarter of Friday night’s loss to the Heat, slim hopes for a one-seed seemed all but lost.
However, lost in all of the commotion of the Pacers’ struggle has been the fact that Miami has been downright average as of late as well. Miami has only gone 17-13 since the All-Star break, including a 3-5 record so far in the month of April. In the absence of more serious problems, perhaps both teams are just bored at this point with the regular season, and are ready to begin the tough playoff grind.
Only time will tell whether the Pacers and Frank Vogel did the right thing in expending so much energy all season in order to play that decisive game seven in front of their home fans. Even a brief look at the numbers indicates just how much Indiana’s starters have played. Each of “The Five” is in the 89th percentile of the league when it comes to minutes played. Roy Hibbert, whose 2392 minutes make him the Indiana starter with the total fewest minutes, has played over 200 more minutes than Tim Duncan, the man leading San Antonio in minutes per game.
Regardless, the Pacers have achieved what they wanted all along, and have set themselves up nicely for a long postseason run.
Now, things get serious.