The Indiana Pacers Playoff Hopes Remain (Slimly) Alive

Apr 12, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) posts up against Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (34) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 12, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) posts up against Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (34) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indiana Pacers picked up three crucial wins in week 24, throttling the New York Knicks 102-86 in a game that was never that close, stumbling their way to a close win against the Detroit Pistons 107-103, and surviving the Russell Westbrook show at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse to pull out a 116-104 win.

The Pacers couldn’t afford to drop a single one of these games, and they delivered the wins they needed. Let’s take a look at what we learned about the Indiana Pacers in week 24!

The Pacers Playoff Hopes are (Still) on Life Support

Despite reeling off five straight wins, the Pacers still don’t control their own destiny. They currently sit at 9th place in the East, tied with Brooklyn and 1 game behind Boston. Those things on their own are dire but not hopeless; what is dooming the Pacers is the fact that they lost the tiebreakers to both Boston and Brooklyn in a week 23.

The Pacers, to be clear, are tied with Brooklyn  for the 8th seed, but have to finish with a better record than one of the Boston or Brooklyn  duo in order to make the playoffs. With only two games left, the Pacers would need either 2 losses from Boston (remaining opponents: versus Toronto, at Milwaukee), or at least 1 loss by Brooklyn  (remaining opponents: versus Chicago, versus Orlando) while winning their remaining two games to tie a season-long seven-game win streak.

Here is a little chart with all the possible outcomes over the final two games for the three teams. Of the nine possible record combinations Indiana can have with Brooklyn, only three allow the Pacers to make the postseason. Against Boston, it is just one of nine.

Pacers Playoffs
Pacers Playoffs /

The Pacers remaining games are versus Washington and at Memphis, two battle-tested playoff teams, but Memphis is dealing with some injuries (Marc Gasol recently sprained his ankle, and Mike Conley is also not at 100%), and Washington is dealing with… well, Washington is dealing with something that looks remarkably similar to last year’s Pacers struggles. (John Wall is also banged up and may sit.)

The hope remains alive, but the candle is flickering on the Pacers playoff dreams.

Paul George Is Not Yet in All Star Form

Paul George in’t there yet. But by the same token, he’s often been better than expected. In the four games he’s played since his return, he’s shooting 39.3% from the field and 43.8% from deep (including a gift of a banked deep ball against the Thunder).

PG13 has shown some flashes on D and generally been a useful player on both ends of the ball. Some of his ball-stopping tendencies are coming back, and he’s still almost exclusively landing on his good leg, but he’s been an on-court plus in terms of production, and a huge plus in terms of spirit and emotion; the Pacers haven’t lost since he came back, even on nights like he had against the Thunder when he clearly wasn’t ready for the speed of the game.

The Pacers become a much more dangerous team with his ability to pinch hit a bit on both ends and are riding high on his return, which is good, because they’ll probably need to win out the season (and get some luck) in order to take that feeling into the playoffs.

4 of the Starting 5 are Riding High 

The Indiana Pacers have been known for riding the strength of their starting five since Frank Vogel took over for the notorious JO’B. The starting five has often been near the tops in the NBA when it comes to +/-, with either Danny Granger or Lance Stephenson starting alongside the usual Hibbert/West/George/Hill combination.

The starters have struggled at times this year, however, and the Pacers have employed many more starting lineups than normal due to the excessive amount of injuries suffered throughout the year. There was even quite a bit of time where the bench was propping up the struggling starting unit, something unheard of in Pacers land in recent years.

That being said, the bulk of the starters cleaned house last week, when it was critical for them to deliver.

  • David West finished the week at +42.
  • C.J. Miles finished +43, and shot 12-of-22 from deep (a preposterous 54.5%).
  • Roy Hibbert, the target of much vitriol from angst ridden fans, finished +21 and was instrumental in getting some much needed stops against Russell Westbrook.

However, while those 4 were humming, Solomon Hill’s struggles continued.

Solo did finish +7 for the week, but put up donuts from deep (0-for-4), averaged 5.3 points, and didn’t contribute much anywhere else. He gamely defended (and was roasted by) Russell Westbrook, but  finished with as many turnovers (4) as rebounds on the week, and only provided 3 assists.

Solo may be tired, he may be feeling the heat from PG returning, or he may just be the least effective member of the starting five, but he’s struggling regardless.

The Indiana Pacers Week Ahead

Games: vs Washington (4/14), at Memphis (4/15)

Prediction: I’ve predicted the Indiana Pacers to snag a playoff spot since preseason, and I won’t change the course now. Pacers go 2-0, running into the Washington Wizards and the Memphis Grizzlies at the right time, and force Brooklyn to play mistake-free basketball.

Last Week’s Prediction Results: 2-0

Season Long Prediction Results:  48-27

What to Watch For: C.J. Miles, currently lighting it up from deep, but due for a cold streak if his Pacers history holds true… Paul George, still adjusting to the speed of the NBA and looking to usurp some minutes from whomever he can… David West, shooting better from the field (63.6%) than the line (60%) last week… Coach Frank Vogel’s rotation going 11 deep right now, and still not having minutes available for sharpshooter Damjan Rudez… Solomon Hill and Paul George rocking headbands in solidarity for teammate Chris Copeland, who was wounded in a bizarre series of events that led to him and two women getting stabbed outside of a New York nightclub…

Next: Opponents Share Their Thoughts on Paul George So Far

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