On their home floor, the No. 1 seed handed the Washington Wizards their first second round win since 1982. And this historical feat for the Wizards’ franchise can be directly attributed to the same poison that has been running through the Pacers’ minds all season.
How did a possible MVP candidate in Paul George turn into one of the least effective “superstars” in the 2014 NBA playoffs? How did the Pacers get pushed to the brink of elimination by the Atlanta Hawks? The answer is simple: Pressure.
It all began in last year’s playoff series with the Miami Heat. After their Game 7 loss, the Pacers took it upon themselves to make a rematch with the Heat a significant goal in this year’s playoff. By creating this “rivalry” with Miami, they have inadvertently sabotaged their entire season. They brought unnecessary pressure to themselves that they were not ready for and the current results are evident of the accusations.
Indiana has put the proverbial target on their backs and did not prepare to deflect the attention that comes with the territory. The media frenzy surrounding the epic collapse of the team has not motivated them but caused them to fold even more. Somehow they mustered up enough dignity to save face against Atlanta, but Washington will not be as easily removed from their shining moment. The lack of focus, passion and overall mental fortitude was on display in their poor showing against the Wizards in Game 1.
Unless the Pacers learn to forget about whatever illusion they have created in their own minds and get back to playing basketball, the Wizards will have the easier road to the Eastern Conference Finals than the Heat.