INDIANAPOLIS — Just two weeks ago the Indiana Pacers were falling fast and headed toward an incredibly-disappointing finish outside of the playoff picture. The losses were piling up. The fans were restless. Questions were mounting.
Then came the seemingly out-of-nowhere signing of former Pacer Lance Stephenson. What has ensued has been a run no one saw coming.
The Pacers are 4-1 since Stephenson joined the team, with the only loss coming in double-OT on the home court of the defending world champions.
Those victories, combined with losses by Chicago and Miami over the last week, have the Pacers poised to clinch a playoff birth tonight in game 82 against the Atlanta Hawks.
Indiana’s magic number to clinch is 1. That means they can clinch a spot either by winning tonight against Atlanta OR a loss by either Miami or Chicago.
A victory tonight will clinch the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, whereas a loss will likely cause Indiana to fall to the No. 8 seed, if they get in at all.
Potential playoff opponents include Boston or Cleveland, depending on Wednesday’s results.
Atlanta comes into town on the heels of a victory Tuesday night, which clinched the No. 5 seed for them, meaning they will have nothing to play for Wednesday night. There is no word yet on whether they will be resting any players in tonight’s game.
If the Pacers are able to gain entrance into the playoffs, they will enter as one of the hottest teams in the league and as dangerous as any team that doesn’t have home-court advantage. The play of Paul George at the top and Lance Stephenson off the bench has made them a potent offensive threat and much-improved defensively as well.
Tonight’s tip is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.