Apparently, there is no rock bottom for the Indiana Pacers. After their sixth loss in eight contests and a train-wreck of a loss to the Atlanta Hawks that saw them trail 17-3 and 42-15, one would think it couldn’t get worse. Yet with the way this team has played of late, there’s no telling.
Regardless of how the team is feeling or how “fatigued” they are (or so head coach Frank Vogel called them while explaining why Roy Hibbert rode the bench in the second half versus the Hawks), now is the time to make a statement.
Even before the team’s implosion, Vogel and company was undoubtedly looking at these next four games as crucial.
Before the implosion, these contests would have been opportunities to make a statement and prove that the Pacers are the class of the East, and potentially the class of the NBA.
Now, these contests will make a different kind of statement. With losses, the Pacers likely seal an early exit from the playoffs. With wins, the Pacers might just find the second wind they desperately need.
The Pacers travel to face an abysmal Milwaukee Bucks squad on Wednesday night. Under normal circumstances, this game wouldn’t mean a thing. But after being thrashed by opponents time and time again recently, the Pacers are due to do some thrashing of their own. A win seems inevitable. Yet with a convincing win, the Pacers could begin to right the ship.
They’ll need to right it quickly, because that cakewalk is followed by meetings with the NBA’s elite.
The Pacers travel to Miami on Friday night. The Pacers won the last matchup at home, pulling out an 84-83 thriller on March 26. Many thought that would be the win to pull the Pacers out of their lull.
Since that game, the Pacers have gone 1-5 and have lost control of the No. 1 seed in the East.
The Heat have gone 5-1 and have a one-game lead in the conference.
To say this game is crucial for Indiana is the understatement of the year. With an upset, the Pacers can prove to themselves, the Heat, and disgruntled Indiana fans that they can still come up big in he spotlight, that they still have gas left in the tank. Even a close loss would go a long way towards restoring confidence in a rattled fan base.
With a loss, Miami saunters and the Pacers sulk. Which of these is more detrimental is up for debate.
The road gets no easier after a date with Miami. They return home two days later to face the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder are second-best in the competitive Western Conference and are 23-14 on the road.
The Thunder offense will provide a stiff test for Indiana’s defense. The Thunder have the league’s fourth-best offense, averaging 106 points per game. For a point of comparison, the league average is a shade over 100. The Pacers average about 96.
After facing two of the most lethal juggernauts in the game, the Pacers finish their regular season April 16 on the road at Orlando. This should be an easy win, but seems like a trap game.
Simply put, the Pacers couldn’t have chosen a less opportune time to plummet. Nevertheless, their schedule, while not doing them any favors, gives them a chance to revive themselves.
They should take the contests versus the Bucks and Magic. That leaves two games that will go a long way in determining their mindset and attitude going into the playoffs.
If the team is “fatigued” now, who knows what state they will be in come the postseason.