Pacers zeroing in on crucial final stretch of season to secure playoff seed

With seven games left in the season, the Pacers need to get it together or risk losing their guaranteed playoff spot.
Brooklyn Nets v Indiana Pacers
Brooklyn Nets v Indiana Pacers / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

The time for talk is over for the Indiana Pacers, and the time for action has started.

Currently, Indiana has a half-game lead in the sixth seed over Miami and a 1.5-game lead over Philadelphia. If the playoffs started today, Indiana would face Cleveland in the first round in a rather favorable playoff matchup, or at least more favorable than what they could have gotten.

However, the playoffs do not start today, nor do they start next week. Indiana still has seven games left to play before the end of the regular season on April 13, and these games may be the most important ones yet.

As it stands, Indiana has the 20th hardest schedule remaining out of every NBA team, and a harder schedule than Philadelphia but an easier schedule than Miami going forward. Out of these seven games, four of them should be guaranteed wins against Toronto, Brooklyn, and Atlanta. On the flip side, Indiana has three games against over .500 teams, including two against playoff rivals in Cleveland and Miami.

As we know from how this season has played out, Indiana has not done the best job taking care of business against inferior teams, with their 17-13 record against teams below .500 sticking out like a sore thumb among their playoff counterparts.

To put it bluntly, Indiana has not taken care of business this year, and this is the reason why they are fighting to stay out of the play-in rather than enjoying a top-three seed, which is where they would be if they just beat the bad teams in front of them. In this final seven-game stretch, however, they do not have any room for error.

With Philadelphia having the second-easiest schedule in the league coming up along with the looming return of Joel Embiid, it is very possible they could make one final leap over the Heat and maybe even the Pacers to snag a top-six seed. As for Miami, they are only half a game behind Indiana, and despite having a slightly harder schedule than them, they have played one game less which gives them a bigger chance to jump forward if the Pacers do not take advantage.

There is no sugarcoating it, the Pacers cannot rely on other teams to do their business for them anymore. In previous weeks, Indiana's losses were covered for by Philly and Miami losing, but that is less likely this time around. To finally snatch that top-six seed away for good, the Pacers need to win the easy ones and snag a few tough ones for good measure.

Long story short, a 4-3 record is the minimum while anything above is preferred. Indiana cannot mess around anymore and lose to teams like Brooklyn, Atlanta, and Toronto, which they have done before. With the playoffs starting in just under three weeks, the Pacers need to show their fans and the rest of the NBA world why they belong with the NBA's elite, and losing to more bad teams does not get them any courtesy going forward.

Next. Next story. One question for every player on the Pacers. dark

The journey starts tonight. After a weekend of rest, Indiana faces the bottom-feeding Brooklyn Nets on the second night of a back-to-back, and again on Wednesday. If the Pacers lose even one of these games, they will not be in good shape to start off the late-season stretch and will have to pull off a few upsets to get back on track. Here's hoping the best happens and we see this team finally become what they can be all along.