by Kent Sterling
I’m alone on a skinny limb. No one I know of not drawing checks from Pacers Sports & Entertainment believes the Indiana Pacers have any chance to take the last two games to win the opening round series against the Atlanta Hawks in seven.
Even people with the Pacers are privately rejecting hope, and who can blame them? The Pacers second quarter self-immolation last night was so complete that logic demands doubt. To watch the Pacers allow Mike Scott to rain down four uncontested three-pointers in less than two minutes was nauseating.
In a pickup game, a defender would take personally that kind of display and knock the shooter on his ass. The Pacers just continue to sag and watch. There has been a lot of watching from the Pacers in this series, and watching in basketball is only good for fans.
But when I climb aboard a bandwagon, I do it early, and I lash myself to it. I believed the Pacers would make the NBA Finals when the season started, and while I felt a hell of a lot smarter surrounded by smart friends who were likewise convinced by a 33-7 start, I’m still a passenger.
Those friends are gone, and because of baffling lapses of focus from Pacers players and coaches the bandwagon is speeding toward the edge of a cliff like the convertible driven by Thelma and Louise. There is no brake pedal, and safely disembarking is out of the question.
I am being called an idiot, moron, lunatic, fool, cretin, and imbecile for continuing to back the Pacers, but I truly believe that this group of inconsistent players will win tomorrow night and again on Saturday. When cornered, even through the end of the regular season, the Pacers found a way to win tough games against the Bulls, Heat, and Thunder.
Whether they find a way past the second round against the Washington Wizards is a different issue. They are a hell of a lot faster, better, and deeper than the Hawks.
If the Hawks were able to go up 3-2 on the Pacers, the Wizards might very well sweep.
We are a long way away from contemplating match ups against John Wall, Trevor Ariza, Bradley Beal, and Marcin Gortat. Crossing that bridge after the Game Seven win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse will give fans plenty of time for that.
So other than obstinance, what compels my belief that the Pacers could possibly win consecutive games against a playoff team for the first time since beating Atlanta February 4th and Portland February 7th? Well, when the question is phrased like that, I feel a need to recalibrate my previously intractable stance. Okay, recalibrating, and… yes, I still believe.
The Pacers are the better team at all five spots, and capable of playing great defense. When they share the ball offensively, the Pacers are reasonable efficient. The Hawks are at best a mediocre pest.
I cannot believe that the Pacers are going to let petty issues cause a season with so much promise to end against the 38-44 Atlanta Hawks. It would be one of the most wasteful displays of selfishness in NBA history, and as long as there is a tine window of hope, I will continue to believe these guys can get it together and play like a unit.
What if the Pacers can’t get it done? Other than buying some delicious barbecue for Chris Hagan as the result of a friendly wager, it’s a waste of time to contemplate the ramifications of that failure as I do not believe it’s going to happen.
Pacers in seven. Go ahead and bet against them. Jack the odds in my favor. Does nothing but make me more money.