Throughout their nearly two month slump, the Indiana Pacers got away from the one aspect of their game that made them the favorites to get out of the Eastern Conference: Their Defense.
Throughout most of the season, the Pacers used their stifling defense to snuff out any team that dared blocked the road that leads to South Beach and their arch rivals, the Miami Heat. Defense is the reason why the Pacers rushed out to the best home record in the league. It seemed like the Pacers nailed a lid onto the basket as opposing teams coming into Indianapolis found it hard to score.
But over the last month of the season, and stretching into the first-round of the playoffs, the Pacers’ stifling defense fell off the map. Opponents found it easier to score on them. Roy Hibbert, their usually dominate center, was missing in action. The rebounding was not there.
This was a team that was in a defensive funk for two months. But when the chips were down, the Pacers finally summoned up their lost defensive calling card and delivered a sterling performance. The Pacers needed to have a great defensive performance in Game 2 not because their backs were against the wall, but to show themselves that they needed to return to the style of play that earned them the home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Pacers played like the Pacers of old on Wednesday night, and it will be imperative that Indiana continues to play like the Pacers of old if this team wants to take on the defending champs in the conference finals.