New life for Miami and Philadelphia means Pacers need to win out rest of season

The Pacers are going to have to play with a new motivation for the rest of the season.

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat
Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat / Megan Briggs/GettyImages
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The Indiana Pacers are in trouble if they don't get their act together for the rest of the season.

After Monday's dismantling of the Brooklyn Nets, there was hope the Pacers finally got over their demons against inferior teams and would put it together to end the season. Well, Pacers fans better hope that is the case because things got more dire for Indiana just one day later.

The impending return of Joel Embiid for the Philadelphia 76ers has been rumored for a while, and it finally happened on Tuesday. Despite only playing 29 minutes because of a post-injury restriction, Embiid helped lead the Sixers to a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder to put Philadelphia two games behind Indiana in the standings with both teams having six games left in their season.

During the months that Embiid was out, the Pacers had the green light to win as many easy games as possible to create some distance between them and Philadelphia, but they clearly did not do enough. With Embiid back, it is very possible for Philadelphia to take advantage of Indiana possibly slipping up and dropping some easy ones and overtaking them for the sixth seed.

In addition to Philadelphia, the Miami Heat also have new life. Their Tuesday matchup against the New York Knicks was important for multiple reasons, as the Heat win put them only half a game behind Indiana in the standings leading to Wednesday.

Clearly, the Heat are playing to avoid the play-in as much as Indiana and Philadelphia are, and Tuesday's game showed that. A Knicks loss also meant that New York has now dropped down to the fifth seed, only 1.5 games ahead of Indiana, who could very well pass them in the near future.

The Pacers now have to worry about two teams picking up steam

However, before they can think of passing New York or Orlando, Indiana has to worry about creating separation from Miami and Philadelphia first. With Indiana's history of dropping games to inferior teams, they will have to fix their issues in the final six games of the season and win the easy ones against Brooklyn again, Atlanta, and Toronto.

That may not be enough, however, so the Pacers will have to get some tough wins against playoff teams such as Cleveland, Oklahoma City, and even Miami on Sunday. That Miami game is by far the most crucial on the schedule now. A win can put Indiana a full game ahead of where they were prior, but a loss can easily drop them in the standings just as much.

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The Pacers played with their food too much earlier in the season, and it's starting to show now. With Miami and Philadelphia getting new life, Indiana has to take care of business and win out the rest of the season. The days of getting help from other teams are over, now is the time for the Pacers to show what they are made of and prove they belong in the playoffs.