Pacers Sweep East Contenders Miami and New York at Home
As the Pacers look above their line in the Eastern Conference standings, they see Miami and New York. With their 125-91 annihilation of the Knicks, they inched closer to the top and are now within a half-game of second place.
Before Wednesday’s game, head coach Frank Vogel emphasized the importance of a win over New York on the locker room dry-erase board.
“No better way to come out of the break than to play the team that’s immediately above you in the standings,” he explained. “We want to try and close the gap. We want to take the two-seed from New York and then we want to try to push Miami for the one-seed.”
Taking a step back from Wednesday’s win, where Vogel admitted that the Knicks’ performance was a rarity and just something every team goes through, it’s hard not to take notice of the Pacers’ now 4-1 record against the Heat and Knicks. When playing those two foes at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, they’re a perfect 4-0 this season.
That’s partly why winning the Central Division is so important for the Pacers. (Note: they are also 2-0 this year against the Chicago Bulls, their only real threat within the division.) It ensures them home-court advantage for at least the first round of the playoffs. For the first time since the 2003-04 season, the Pacers were atop their division coming out of the All-Star break.
It’s no secret, playing on their home floor has been sweet to the Pacers. They’re 22-5 in those games (which included a 15-game home win streak), second only to Miami in the East.
“It gives us confidence, but I think we’re past confidence,” Paul George said. “We play so well here…Again, I’ve said this all season long, it’s on the road where we got to play like this.”
David West, the most experienced player on the roster, didn’t directly provided an answer as whether their success over the Heat and Knicks provides any sort of edge or confidence. Instead, he explained their mentality. “We’re just going to take these games as they come but our intent is the same, regardless who is in front of us.”
And the keys?
“Be solid defensively, force teams to play through us, and continue to share the ball and be unselfish on the offensive end.”
Winning home games in the strong fashion like they have, against these two playoff challengers is encouraging. The Pacers are saying all the right things, and not overestimating the importance of those wins, but they admittedly like their odds — especially at home.
“We ain’t going to let nobody come in our house thinking they are going to win the game,” Lance Stephenson said positively.