With the 2013 NBA playoffs right around the corner, the playoff picture is pretty clear at this point. The Indiana Pacers have truly stepped up this season and find themselves holding on to the second seed in the Eastern Conference. But how far can this Pacers team go?
Indiana entered the season with high hopes and they have not disappointed. The Pacers managed to retain Roy Hibbert and were coming off an encouraging 2012 postseason where they pushed the eventual champions, Miami Heat, to six games.
In the absence of the team’s leading scorer, Danny Granger, Paul George didn’t think twice and stepped right into the shoes of a leader. He made his All-Star debut and took giant leaps towards NBA stardom.
Granger only played five games this season, and it was recently announced that he will miss the rest of the season. While this doesn’t change much, seeing as Granger only made five appearances this season, his shooting ability and solid defense will still be missed in the playoffs.
New York Knicks are tight on the Pacers’ heels and are just 0.5 games behind them for the second seed. While this could be a second round matchup and Indiana would love to have homecourt advantage, you can’t forget about the lower seeds in the conference. If the playoffs started today, Indiana would take on the gritty Boston Celtics, who are no pushover by any means.
The Heat are the overwhelming favorites to win the title, and the Pacers are expected to meet the defending champions in the conference finals. It is definitely conceivable that Indiana will get that far, but they desperately need to finish as the second seed and guarantee themselves homecourt advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Vytis is a Miami Heat and NBA columnist. You can follow him on Twitter here: @VytisLasaitis