For the Indiana Pacers, the playoffs are only the beginning of a vision of where they want to be. Tired of looming in the shadows of the Miami Heat, the Indiana Pacers made a name for themselves in 2013 and 2014 as the fiery, team oriented squad set to contend in the East. In the Eastern Conference finals last year, the Pacers seriously challenged the Heat by taking them to a game 7 and showing up on everyone's radar.
This season, the Indiana Pacers' playoffs dreams quickly became a reality in a weak Eastern Conference. The real question all season has been about the seeding between the Heat and Pacers. Although the Heat don't like to admit it, the rivalry between the two teams is the only interesting thing about the Eastern Conference this season. Most of the season, it looked as if the Indiana Pacers had finally caught and maybe even surpassed the Heat as the team to beat. But recent developments have left everyone wondering, are the Pacers on the verge of an epic collapse?
With only one regular season game remaining for the Indiana Pacers before the playoffs, it would be easy to look past the game against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday and start thinking about the first round. Fans should expect to hear a lot of sports cliches leading up to Wednesday's game about "one game at a time" and "we're not worried about seeding". But the Indiana Pacers need to be very worried about seeding.
If the Pacers can win on Wednesday they will clinch the one seed and assure themselves a match up with the eight seeded Atlanta Hawks, who will finish the season with a below.500 winning percentage. Though the Pacers finished the season 2-2 against the Hawks, there is little chance that Atlanta is beating anyone in a best of seven series. But if the Pacers lose on Wednesday night, they could possibly end up facing the Charlotte Bobcats. And they should be very concerned about that possibility.
As the Indiana Pacers have sputtered their way to the playoffs, Roy Hibbert has been one of the glaring weaknesses on the team. Just last year, Hibbert looked poised to be a major piece of the Pacers future. Now, he is regularly putting up stink bombs like he did on Sunday night against the Thunder. Al Jefferson of the Bobcats is averaging 21.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. With the way Roy Hibbert is playing right now, it would be a match up nightmare for the Pacers.
Charlotte has been a laughingstock in recent NBA history, but they have quietly turned into a legitimate NBA team over the last few months. They still have a chance to catch the Washington Wizards for the sixth seed in the East, but if they end up in the seventh spot and draw the Indiana Pacers in the playoffs, they should not be afraid. In fact, it would not be surprising at all to see the Bobcats push the Pacers to the brink and possibly even pull off the upset, throwing a real wrench in the playoffs.
So the Indiana Pacers' playoffs start Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic as they fight for the number one seed and the chance to avoid the Charlotte Bobcats.