Pacers’ Magic Number Down to One
With 7 games left in the Pacers season, the Pacers are virtually assured of the Central Division crown, the franchise’s first since 2003-04.
On the heels of a Bulls loss last night in Washington, the Pacers’ magic number to clinch the Central Division dwindled to one. All the Pacers (48-27) need to win the division is win one more game this season or see the Bulls (40-33) lose one more game. The Pacers own the tiebreaker with the Bulls by virtue of a 3-1 season series win.
Winning the division guarantees a top-four seed in the Playoffs, which, in most cases, means home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. There would also be a new banner to hang in the rafters of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Full Scenario for Pacers to Win Central Division Title
- If Bulls lose either tomorrow (at BKN) or Friday night (vs ORL), Pacers clinch
- If Bulls win their next two games and the Pacers win Friday (vs OKC), Pacers clinch
- If Bulls win their next two games and the Pacers lose to Thunder, a win on Saturday at Washington will clinch
- If Bulls win their next two games and the Pacers lose their next two games, the scenario pushes out to Sunday, when the Bulls take on the Bucks. If the Bulls win that game, the Pacers take on the Cavs at home on Tuesday, April 9th. A win would against the Cavs would take the crown.
[Editor's Note (4/4/13): Post updated to reflect rules surrounding home court advantage in the first round. Winning the division does not guarantee home court advantage in the first round. However, the Pacers are in the driver's seat to ensure home court advantage for at least the First Round.]
Previously (3/29/13): Pacers Magic Number at Five
By Manny Randhawa
With two big road wins in two nights in the Lone Star State over the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, the Pacers not only gained confidence playing away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but also reduced their magic number for clinching the Central Division to five games as they head toward the playoffs. With any combination of wins by the Pacers and losses by the team trailing them in the Central standings – the Chicago Bulls – totaling five, the Pacers will claim their first Central Division crown since 2004.
How soon could Indiana wrap up the division en route to their third consecutive playoff appearance? Let’s take a look at the remaining schedule for both teams:
The Bulls have 12 games remaining while the Pacers have just nine, and Indiana has an edge in that it has won the season series with Chicago, three games to one.
But while Chicago has more games remaining, they have a relatively soft schedule compared with that of the Pacers. Of the 12 remaining games for the Bulls, nine are against teams with sub-.500 win-loss records. Chicago will play the Mavericks (35-37), Detroit Pistons (24-48) twice, Washington Wizards (26-45) twice, Orlando Magic (18-54) twice, and Toronto Raptors (26-45) twice. The only teams with winning records the Bulls will face the rest of the way are the Brooklyn Nets (42-29) at the Barclays Center, the New York Knicks (44-26) at home, and the Miami Heat (56-15) in South Beach.
What that means for the Pacers is that they’re going to have to beat some quality teams in order to clinch the division, as they play five of their remaining nine contests against teams with records above the .500 mark. Indiana will face the Los Angeles Clippers (49-23) at the Staples Center, host the Oklahoma City Thunder (53-19) and the Nets at the Fieldhouse, and play two of their last three regular season contests on the road against the Knicks and the Boston Celtics (37-34).
The Clippers, one of just seven teams to hand the Pacers a loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season, will make it tough for Indiana to return the favor, as Los Angeles is 28-8 on their home floor.
The Thunder, who make their only appearance of the season at the Fieldhouse on April 5, are 21-14 on the road and 19-7 against Eastern Conference opponents.
The Nets have proven to be a challenge for the Pacers, defeating them in both meetings so far this season.
Finishing up the season with an East Coast road trip to take on the Knicks and Celtics will be no easy task either, and the April 14th game at Madison Square Garden could prove the deciding contest in determining the No. 2 seed in the East, as both the Pacers and Knicks are separated by just percentage points in the conference standings.
As tough of a schedule as Indiana has remaining, however, their recent play – both at home and on the road – is reason for optimism, as they have won six of their last seven including two blowouts on the road against the Rockets and Mavs.
They’ll undoubtedly need to continue that inspired performance between now and April 17 when the regular season ends at Philadelphia if they are to claim the Central crown.