Pacers reaction to division title shows growth
There was no celebrating, no champagne or t-shirts in the locker room Wednesday night. The Pacers had just locked up their second consecutive Central Division title and the sixth in franchise history by clipping the Miami Heat, 84-83. But the Pacers’ reaction afterwards indicated where this team is now.
They have bigger things in mind.
“It’s quite an accomplishment,” coach Frank Vogel said. “We’re very happy with that. Obviously we have bigger goals, too.”
Very much so. They’ve outwardly stated since the training camp back in September that they are setting out to win a championship. To do so, they’re after the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, which would ensure them homecourt advantage in the playoffs. Coming up short in Game 7 last year, on Miami’s floor, is motivation enough.
“It definitely means something,” said fourth-year budding star Paul George. “We’ve been playing great basketball and we’ve been building off of the past two or three years when this team has been assembled. It’s great to see where we’re just handling our business and we’re positioned well right now.”
All five times the Pacers have won the division, they’ve advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. Even more impressive, whoever holds the Central Division crown at the end of the year has advanced to the conference finals in 16 of the last 19 seasons. Earning another one is a great precursor to further success for Indiana.
There’s no doubt that the Pacers and the Heat will finish with the top two seeds in the East. After Wednesday’s victory, their cushion in the top spot is three games.
David West first paused for a moment when asked about the meaning of another division.
“We hadn’t really talked about that much,” he admitted. “It’s good. It’s a good step.”
Their sixth division title hangs another banner in the rafters permanently.
“Our goal is to win a championship and that’s a stepping stone to get to that,” said George Hill, who’s in his third season with the Pacers. “It’s a great accomplishment for the organization as well as the team.”