When it comes to the postseason in any sport, you always have to watch out for the team that gets hot at the right time. It’s not always the team with the best regular season record that hoists the trophy at the end of the year. It’s the team that’s playing their best when the playoffs roll around. Just like the New York Giants’ improbable run to the Super Bowl this year, always watch out for the team with momentum.
The team with all the momentum right now is the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers have won 7 in a row and 9 of their last 10. They’re sitting at 41-22, good enough for the 3-seed in the Eastern Conference. The buzz about the Pacers fell off in the middle of the season when they cooled after their hot start. Even with their recent success, they’re still not being considered a contender by most.
“We take it a little personal,” said Pacers forward Danny Granger. “But we’re a small market. A thing about being a small market is that you don’t get the national media coverage like some of the other teams.”
Small market combined with no superstar equals no media love. Everyone knows that, but if the Pacers make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, we’ll have to pay attention to them. Thinking about David Stern’s dream Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, which would post skyrocketed TV ratings, he’d be getting quite the opposite if the Pacers made it to play a team like the San Antonio Spurs.
But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. I do still think it’s a toss-up between the Heat and the Chicago Bulls for the Eastern Conference title, but definitely don’t sleep on the Pacers. They could very well get a nice, easy first round matchup with the Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic. If the Pacers win in 4 or 5, and the New York Knicks, who are playing very well right now, manage to push the Heat to 6 or 7 tough games, the Pacers could give the Heat a solid run in the next round. Of course, these are all hypothetical playoff pairings, but I’m just saying, I could see it playing out like that.
Respect or not, the Pacers have to just go out there and do what they’ve been doing exceptionally for the last couple weeks: play as a team. They don’t have the big name player that’s going to put the team on his back for the whole playoffs. They’re going to have to do it with solid, unselfish basketball. If they do what they’re capable of, there’s no reason they can’t win the East.