Why the Indiana Pacers made the playoffs

At the beginning of the season, the Indiana Pacers said they would be discontent with anything less than a No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.Danny_Granger

For those who have been casually following along, it would appear they followed the blueprint perfectly, with no hiccups along the way.

That assertion would be wrong.

They stumbled, tripped, and fell, and at times admitted to being completely lost. Head coach Frank Vogel’s job security was called into question, and team chemistry seemed to be lost.

But as they say, everything is well that ends well.

The Pacers are the top seed in the East thanks in large part to a phenomenal start to their season. They began the season 17-3, and won 33 of their first 40 games. Analysts and fans alike began contemplating the possibilities of another Eastern Conference Finals matchup between the new kids on the block and the two-peat Miami Heat.

Then, things started heading south.

Since their 33-7 start, the Pacers finished their regular season slate 23-19.

Fan-favorite and locker room veteran Danny Granger was traded for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen, a move that more than a few in Indiana and across the nation questioned.

As of April 14, Turner was averaging 6.8 points per game and just three rebounds in 26 games with the team.

Granger, who is dealing with an injury, is averaging 8.0 points in just over 16 minutes per game with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Who got the better end of that one?

Two games likely saved the Pacers season: An 84-83 win over the Miami Heat in late March, and a 102-97 win over Oklahoma City on Sunday afternoon.

Those games showed that the Pacers are capable of not only playing with the elite of the NBA, but capable of coming out on top. Even when all of the pieces are not perfectly in sync, the Indiana Pacers are a formidable opponent.

Despite a recent decline, the Pacers still boast the second-best defense in the league, giving up only 92.3 points per game. By comparison, Miami surrenders a shade over 97 points per game and Oklahoma City gives up nearly 100.

Offensively, the Pacers are…less than stellar. The Pacers score only 96.7 points per game, good for 24th in the league. In the playoffs, consistent offense is a must.

The Pacers are limping into the playoffs, licking their wounds. What seemed like an easy first-round matchup now has some wondering what might happen over the next week.

Nevertheless, the Pacers achieved what they set out to do. Phase I of their mission is accomplished.

The rest of the story will soon be written.