Indiana Pacers have little room for error in second half of season

If the Indiana Pacers want to make a playoff run, they don't have much room to mess around.

Indiana Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton, Pascal Siakam
Indiana Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton, Pascal Siakam / Steven Ryan/GettyImages
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The Indiana Pacers have some work to do. With the All-Star Break ending soon and Indiana's first game being on Thursday, the Pacers have some ground to cover because of their somewhat slow week before the festivities in Indiana.

Currently, the Pacers have a 31-15 record and are the sixth seed in the East. However, Indiana's lead over the seventh-seeded (Play-In) Miami Heat stands at only half a game, and with 36 games left in the season, the Pacers have very little room for error the rest of the way.

Prior to the All-Star Break, Tyrese Haliburton battled a minute restriction as he eased his way back from a January 8 hamstring tear, playing close to 22 minutes per game in February.

As a result, the Pacers lost plenty of winnable games, such as a blown lead to the Knicks, an embarrassing loss to the bottom-feeding Hornets, a blowout loss to the inferior Warriors, and a loss to a Kings team they beat a month earlier with half their rotation playing. As the season goes on, this stretch may come back to haunt them.

The Pacers currently hold the 19th strongest schedule left in the league, and the next 10 games are especially rough. With matchups against the Mavericks twice, Pelicans twice, Timberwolves, Magic, and Thunder coming up, the Pacers need to get back on the same page and hope Haliburton has shaken off the injury rust fully.

In addition to this difficult upcoming stretch, the Pacers especially need to keep an eye out for Miami and Orlando, who they have not beaten yet this season.

In contrast to the Pacers' moderately easy remaining schedule, the Heat have the fourth-weakest schedule remaining while the Magic have the weakest, very crucial as these are the teams directly behind Indiana in the standings by only half a game apiece.

The Eastern Conference this year is perhaps the toughest it's been in a long time, and the 4th and 8th seeds being separated by only three games shows that. Unfortunately, the Pacers squandered their opportunity to coast a bit in the second half of the season by losing plenty of winnable games before the break.

Keep in mind that they still have not beaten Orlando in a game this season and will lose the tiebreaker if there is one. Indiana is also tied in the season series with Miami and does not face them again until April in one of the final games of the season.

As the second half of the season starts, Indiana is in an interesting place. They currently sit only a half-game down from eighth place, which would all but send them to their doom in a matchup against the Celtics, but they are only 2.5 games away from the fourth seed, which should be the goal with this new team.

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If they had won those winnable games earlier, they probably would have more wiggle room, but with them being stuck in a tight Eastern Conference battle, they will have to string some wins together sooner rather than later. Hopefully, All-Star Weekend was the refresher this team needed, and they come out strong starting Thursday against Detroit.