Following their nail-biting win over the Chicago Bulls last night, the Indiana Pacers are now in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with a 29-36 win-loss card, bringing them closer to a postseason appearance through the play-in tournament where four teams will tussle it out for the last two playoff spots.
The road ahead remains tough for the Pacers, but they are just a game and a half behind the Washington Wizards, which are currently in 10th place and occupy the last play-in berth. Fortunately, three other teams in the play-in range (Toronto, Atlanta, and Chicago) will have tougher schedules than Indiana to end the regular season, giving them a lot of leeway to climb in the standings.
Nevertheless, assuming that the Pacers manage to squeak past the play-in tournament and snag the eight seed for themselves, do they have a shot at scoring an upset against a top seed in the playoffs?
Can the Indiana Pacers pull off an upset if they sneak into the playoffs?
Unless something drastic happens, the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks and the second-seeded Boston Celtics will be the ones to jockey for home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Philadelphia 76ers aren’t far behind them, but they are 4.5 games behind Milwaukee, making them more likely to remain slotted in third place.
Do the Pacers have a realistic shot at pulling the rag against the Bucks and the Celtics in a potential 1 vs 8 matchup? Let’s see how they have fared against both teams so far this season.
- Indiana vs Milwaukee: MIL leads series, 2-0
- Indiana vs Boston: Series tied, 1-1
Indiana has fared poorly against Milwaukee, losing both contests by double-digits. Furthermore, the Bucks have a 10-game winning streak against the Pacers — the latter having last won in February 2020.
Milwaukee is simply a matchup nightmare for Indiana. Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have a tall rotation that can easily pressure the Pacers on both ends of the floor, especially on defense. Even if Tyrese Haliburton explodes on the scoring department, there’s just no advantage for the Blue and Gold here — both on paper and in practice.
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Meanwhile, the Pacers have fared much better against the Celtics, with both teams winning at each other’s home court. Both outings have been pretty close (both decided by five points or less), and Indiana has found a way to thrive offensively against Boston even with the latter’s generally solid team defense and heavy armory of shot creation.
Still, Boston’s biggest advantage over Indiana is its collection of battle-tested players who can carry the load offensively even if Jayson Tatum and/or Jaylen Brown has an off night. The Celtics possess tremendous depth that can quickly help them overwhelm the young Pacers assuming that their good defense remains intact. To have a shot at winning, the Pacers will have to try and outgun them from the three-point line and make them feel their bounce as the younger squad.
Ultimately, the objective fact is that the Indiana Pacers will be gigantic underdogs against both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics in a seven-game series if they make the playoffs. But that’s not to take away from how much making the postseason would mean to this frenetic team and their competitive bid in the following years.