Pacers Clinch Playoff Spot
The Indiana Pacers are headed to the playoffs for the third-straight year. They have 14 regular-season games remaining but clinched a playoff berth late Wednesday due to Philadelphia’s 101-72 loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles.
Miami, the defending champions and first team to secure a playoff spot, have an 11.5-game lead on the Pacers. They essentially have the top seed in the East locked up thanks to their league-best win streak, which was extended to 24 on Wednesday.
“Once the playoffs are set, the regular-season records are irrelevant,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said recently. “We understand we’re highly unlikely to catch [Miami] in the regular-season so we’re just trying to get the highest seed possible and then whatever matchup we have in the first round, we got to win that series. Anything can happen come playoff time.”
The Pacers (42-26), who became the fourth NBA team to claim a playoff spot, have a one-game edge on third-place New York, and a two-game cushion on Brooklyn.
“Obviously, we felt like we were going to make the playoffs with the record we have but it’s always good seeing that ‘X’ next to your team’s name in the standings,” Vogel said after Thursday’s practice. “Honestly, it doesn’t really change that much. We’re competing not to make the playoffs, but to win the 2-seed, and to win our division. The fact that we’ve clinched doesn’t really change our focus.”
Indiana also has their sights on the Central Division title, which the Chicago Bulls have held for the past two years. A division title for the Pacers would be their first since 2003-04. The Pacers and Bulls are separated by five games, and in effect, six, because the Pacers won the season series.
Closing out the regular-season won’t be easy for the blue and gold. Eight of the their final 14 games are on the road, including a four-game West Coast trip next week.
The Pacers host the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday and then they’ll face the Bulls for the final time on Saturday, in Chicago.