The Indiana Pacers winning out is a must to avoid Play-In

Indiana is looking to capture a top-six finish to qualify for its first postseason berth in four seasons.
Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers
Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

After the Pacers' big win on Sunday against Miami, the Pacers enter the last week of the NBA Season at 45-34 and in control of their own playoff fate. With three games left on the schedule, two against teams below .500, Indiana can avoid the play-in by winning out.

Currently, they are only one game behind Cleveland for fifth and 1.5 games behind both Orlando and a struggling New York. Milwaukee has dropped four in a row, thus, making it within reach for the second seed depending on the fall of other Eastern Conference foes.

The top six teams in each conference will automatically continue their season while seeds 7-10 will have to earn a berth via the Play-In. If Indiana drops to seven or eight, they most likely will be playing either the 76ers or the Heat.

The Pacers have won the season series against both teams, 2-1. They have also split the first two games earlier in the season against Philadelphia and Miami as those contests were a part of a back-to-back.

Back in mid-November, Indiana traveled to Philadelphia to play two games in three nights. While this is a similar format for the playoffs, the Play-In is a single game and not a series.

The Pacers would drop the first game, 137-126, but win the rematch 132-126. Indiana's starting point guard, Tyrese Haliburton, would score 25 and 33 points, respectively, in those games.

In the rubber match on January 25th at Indiana, the Pacers would win 134-122. Pascal Siakam recorded a triple-double with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

A similar result happened against the Heat as Indiana would travel to Miami and also play two games in three nights. The Pacers dropped the first contest, 142-132, and then won the rematch 144-129.

Haliburton had a huge scoring display in the loss against Miami with 44 points. Now-traded Bruce Brown had 30 points in the redemption game two nights later.

On Sunday, the Pacers edged out the win against the Heat, 117-115, as center Myles Turner put up 22 points and 13 rebounds. The win kept Indiana ahead of both Philadelphia and Miami.

If the Pacers lose any of their last three games, they could drop out of the top six and have to face either of those two teams again for a fourth team. This time, it would be with their season on the line.

The worse of two evils: Playing Philly or Facing the Heat (again)?

Philadelphia has won their last five games in a row as Joel Embiid is back in the lineup for the 76ers, too. The 76ers offense ranks fifth in the Eastern Conference in terms of points per game.

The tandem of Embiid and Tyrese Maxey combine for an average of 60 points a game which can give the Pacers' defense fits. All three of their games are at home with two against teams already eliminated from playoff contention, Brooklyn and Detroit.

Former-Pacer Buddy Hield is playing for the 76ers now as he is dangerous off the bench at either shooting guard or small forward. Since Philadelphia is capable of winning a big game like this to extend their season, the Pacers need to avoid the 76ers.

Potentially, the Heat pose less of a threat than the 76ers. Miami has the second lowest points per game average in the Eastern Conference despite having eight players on their roster that averaging ten points a game or more.

While Jimmy Butler, aka Jimmy Buckets, is Miami's leading scorer with 21 points a game, center Bam Adebayo is averaging a double-double a game on just under 20 points and 10.7 rebounds. However, Miami did make a trip to last year's NBA Finals as the seventh seed as they took out the top seeds in the Eastern Conference along the way.


The Pacers' league-leading offense (first overall in points per game, field goal percentage, and assists) should be able to sustain a solid Heat defense and carry them to victory in a possible play-in against Miami. Pick your poison but I think the Pacers would rather face the Heat instead of the 76ers.