With the Indiana Pacers missing the postseason for the third straight season, fans of the Blue and Gold will once again be tethered to their screens instead watching other teams tussle it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Tyrese Haliburton and the gang may not be playoff participants for now, but fans should still be in for a treat with the 2023 NBA Playoffs just around the corner. There are probably still those types of diehards who would rather watch no one if it ain’t the Pacers, but for those who still care about being an NBA fan at large even without Indiana in it, here’s a guide on which teams could pique your interest to go all the way.
Who should Indiana Pacers fans root for in the 2023 NBA Playoffs?
For those who care about divisions (really?), the Central Division will be repped by Milwaukee and Cleveland, with Chicago currently slotted at the final play-in spot. The Bucks, owners of the league’s best record, are arguably the favorites to come out of the East while the Cavaliers are perhaps the biggest wildcard. Both teams are pretty likable, and Pacers fans cannot go wrong rooting for either to make a deep run.
Other relatively harmless teams to root for in the East include new-look Brooklyn, now headlined as an underdog, Toronto, which may not even make the final eight, and Boston, another strong title contender (save for Marcus Smart’s flopping barrages). The other East squads, however, have a lot of unlikable traits, at least for Pacers fans, such as Philadelphia (obvious reasons), New York (it’s New York), Miami (it’s Miami), and Atlanta (they need to blow it up).
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On the flip side, the Western Conference also has a fair offering of cheer-able teams. No.1-seeded Denver tops the list, with Nikola Jokic leading a pack of fringe All-Stars into contention. Sacramento, led by former Pacer Domantas Sabonis, will want to make sure that they don’t stop at just snapping a historic playoff drought with expectations now surrounding them. Young play-in teams like New Orleans, Minnesota, and Oklahoma City will enter the race as underdogs. And who doesn’t love underdogs?
Unfortunately, going by typical Pacers fan standards, the other playoff teams out West don’t exactly scream root-able. With Memphis metamorphosing from a group of likable grizzlies into a sleuth of infantile bears, Phoenix bannering a super team, and the Lakers being the overly dramatic franchise that they are, there’s just not a lot to objectively like. Defending champs Golden State and the LA Clippers are not as abrasive, but Pacers fans will likely be indifferent to them at best (source: my guts).
Nevertheless, the 2023 NBA playoffs should be as competitive and chaotic than ever before. And while the Indiana Pacers will be sitting this one out, we can look forward to seeing them back on the platform soon. For now, fans can zero in on their favorites and see who can stand out and hoist the trophy this year.