After a back-and-forth battle between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat, the Pacers have finally clinched the number one spot for the East Conference, but not in a self-deserving way. It was given to them.
Following a strong start at the beginning of the season, with setting a franchise wins record, it seemed to be clear who was going to take the East Conference top spot, until about a month or two ago. The Pacers began to fall apart, and it happened rapidly. If they would have beaten the Knicks on March 19th, they would have been four games ahead of the Heat, but they lost, giving the Heat another chance to catch back up.
When the team finally started to pull things back together and play the way they did at the start of the season, things were looking up. If the Pacers are to face the Heat again in the Eastern Conference Finals, it was crucial for them to have home court advantage. It all came down to the home game vs. the Heat. Fans were worried, but somehow the Pacers put the past behind them and finished a strong and close game to beat the Heat. All they had to do was keep winning and not lose the easy games…which they did. Not only did they lose easy games, but the Pacers managed to score a historically-low first half with only 23 points. Coach Frank Vogel sat his starters for the next game because of their poor performance, and somehow they managed to barely beat Milwaukee. Again, thanks to luck.
In my opinion, ever since Larry Bird tried to clean up some issues within the team, such as trading team captain Danny Granger, the team camaraderie has clearly vanished. The Pacers slowly began to fall apart and that element of holding the team together was simply not there anymore. It seemed as if they had lost their team captain, their veteran, and number one guy to look up to for assistance and experience..oh wait, they did. In a recent interview with Larry Bird, the president of basketball operations, he stated that he did not “believe that the departure of nine-year Pacer forward Danny Granger disrupted team chemistry.” Bird believed that the trade to get Andrew Bynum was important for the playoffs, but let’s not forget about the regular season leading up to the playoffs Mr. Bird.
It hasn’t been easy nor has it been enjoyable, but the Pacers have finally clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They didn’t do it by dominating the conference and beating teams, but because they got lucky and the Heat happened to lose their last two games. Starting as the dominating team of the conference to now a team based on luck, is not something to ride on in hopes of getting them through the playoffs. Along with the number one spot, they now have home court advantage. This will help immensely, but they also need to work on their team chemistry and get back to playing like the team they started with in November.
Luck can only take you so far and I can only thank the Heat for losing.