Some historic happened in the NBA today. No, I’m not talking about the Golden State Warriors equaling the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins. I’m talking about the Indiana Pacers trouncing the Brooklyn Nets, 129-105, ensuring the team’s return to the playoffs after last year’s wasted season.
Some say the Pacers might have been better off tanking and getting a lottery pick, which the Chicago Bulls will now get. But I say playoff experience is more important than a fringe lottery pick anyway. And it brings good karma. Look at the Boston Celtics, for example.
As for who the Pacers will play once the postseason commences, well, that’s still up in the air. They are currently tied with the Detroit Pistons at 43-37 with 2 games left each, but the Pacers hold the tiebreaker. So the math is pretty simple. Win both games remaining — against the Knicks on Tuesday and then the Bucks on Wednesday — or hope that the Pistons win one and they win one, or that the Pistons lose both. Any of these scenarios would see the Pacers match up against the Toronto Raptors in the first round as the 7th seed as opposed to against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers as the 8th seed.
Let’s face it, the Pacers are probably going to get swept either way, or perhaps they can eke out a game or two if they play well. But barring an injury or miracle, they aren’t making it past the first round. That said, it’s still preferable to play the Raptors because at least it feels like they have a better chance. The Cavs, as much as they have struggled at times this season, are still battle-tested and have the second best player on the planet (yes, I think everyone agrees he’s no longer the best). Chances are they’ll flip a switch once the playoffs begin.
Coach Frank Vogel and elder statesman Monta Ellis have both indicated that the Pacers prefer to play and secure the 7th seed rather than rest aching players. The possible exception is Paul George, who has been battling a sore ankle for some time now, despite actually playing rather well as of late. I agree. Momentum is more important at this stage than rest, considering there’s a bit of a gap between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs, and that there are no back to backs in the postseason.
Check back in a few days when the season is over. It’ll be time to digest the team’s regular season performance, grade the players, and look forward to their first round matchup.