The Indiana Pacers are headed to the second round for the first time in a decade

The Pacers can finally return to playing basketball through May, as they finished off the Milwaukee Bucks in 6 games to reach the second round.
May 2, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) shoots the ball
May 2, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) shoots the ball / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

They did it. They actually did it. The Indiana Pacers took care of business and are headed to the second round.

After a devastating Game 5 loss to a depleted Bucks team in Milwaukee, the Pacers were staring at a potential nightmare scenario rather quickly. Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo were ramping up their recovery and it was a possibility for both to return by Game 6 on Thursday.

Sure enough, while Giannis still sat out to rehab his calf injury, Lillard returned to the court for the first time since Game 3 in an attempt to steal one more game, this one being on the road to force a do-or-die Game 7 in Milwaukee.

Thankfully, the Pacers did not let it get there. After a strong start from Milwaukee, Indiana turned the tide around rather quickly and ran away with the game before long. What started as a nine-point first-quarter lead quickly turned into a 12-point halftime lead and eventually a 98-120 win, giving Indiana that pivotal fourth win in the series for them to move on to the second round.

While the story of the first five games was centered around the big three of Tyrese Haliburton, Pascal Siakam, and Myles Turner, Game 6 was all about the bench.

Specifically, T.J. McConnell and Obi Toppin stepped up big time, leading the Pacers in scoring with 20 and 21 points, respectively. While Tyrese Haliburton struggled with his jumper, going only 2/10 from deep and Myles Turner's strong series was halted with only five points in 23 minutes and foul trouble, Toppin and McConnell picked up the slack beautifully to give Indiana the win and help them advance.

When it was all said and done and the clock struck zero, the Indiana Pacers advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Specifically, the last time the Pacers advanced to the second round was during the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals run, the last playoff run of any substance of the Paul George era.

For context, the last time the Pacers made the second round, Tyrese Haliburton would be just starting his first year of high school. Now, he is the best player in the next era of Pacers playoff basketball. Despite all the low points of the season and a terrible loss only the game prior, Thursday was a night of celebration for Pacers fans, as they finally basked in the glory of continued playoff basketball past April.

Additionally, it felt extra sweet to get a win over heated season rivals Milwaukee Bucks, with whom the Pacers have not endeared themselves recently. After some hostility between Pacers players and Bucks players, namely Bobby Portis and Patrick Beverley, the Pacers finally got the last laugh and capped off the final win in an 11-game series including the regular season and playoffs that ended with the Pacers getting eight wins and completely dominating their competition.

After this dismantling of the Milwaukee Bucks, the Pacers can look forward to three days of rest before they face their East semis competition in the second-seeded New York Knicks, who took care of the Philadelphia 76ers in the final game of Thursday night to advance to the second round as well.


The series will start on Monday on TNT at 7:30 PM EST.