You get the feeling that the Indiana Pacers are thankful to have survived a massive scare by the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks. I mean after all, the Pacers were supposed to make quick work of an Atlanta team that was just grateful to get into the playoffs despite looking like a lottery-bound team throughout much of the year.
Instead, we were treated to a grave weakness that may haunt the Pacers in the second round of the playoffs versus the Washington Wizards: far too often, the Pacers play down to their opponent’s level.
The Pacers never really took the Hawks seriously, and once Indiana finally woke up and started playing Pacers basketball, the team found themselves in a 3-2 hole and were staring down the barrel of an amazing collapse to a once-promising season. But to their credit, the Pacers got their groove back, finally displaying the type of play that made NBA insiders believe that they were the only credible threat to knock off LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
David West and Paul George, who both were shackled in the first five games of the series, finally found the key to unlock their handcuffs and played like they should have at the beginning of the series. The Pacers should have never struggled against the Hawks, but Indiana got what it deserved because it played down to Atlanta’s level.
This will not fly against the Wizards, who are looking to prove to the world that they are legitimate contenders. The Pacers are going to have to play like the Pacers of old if this team has any dreams of taking the Eastern Conference throne from the Heat.
But until then, the Pacers will point their fingers to the sky and give thanks for surviving the Hawks and getting into the second round.