Posted on March 26, 2018, by Travis Pulver
You would think that securing a playoff spot shouldn’t be a big deal for the Pacers. After all, this will be the seventh time in eight seasons for Indiana. But this time, making the playoffs comes with an additional sense of satisfaction and joy. How come?
After they traded Paul George away, no one expected them to be a contender this season. However, with Sunday’s 113-107 win over the Miami Heat, they are now guaranteed a spot. But they are far from satisfied.
“Our (job) is still not done,” Pacers forward Thaddeus Young said after the game (ESPN). “We’re in the playoffs, but now we want seeding. We want to get as high of a seed as possible and we’re just going to continue to play and try to win as many games as possible. But the monkey is off our back now that we’re actually in.”
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The Miami Heat, who are holding onto the No. 8 seed in the East, did not make it easy on the Pacers. Miami got out to an early 30-21 lead after the first quarter. They extended it to 14-points in the second, but the Pacers slowly chipped away at it until they had a late six-point lead, 52-46.
But Miami was able to close the first half with a seven-point run to take a 53-52 lead into halftime.
Indiana regained the momentum in the third quarter and held an eight-point lead, 82-74, heading into the fourth—which is when the Heat took control of the game. They had a chance to win the game in regulation. But James Johnson missed his second free throw with 8.3 seconds leaving the game tied at 96-96 and headed to overtime.
A couple of minutes in, the Heat held a 100-98 lead. But a couple minutes and an 11-2 run by the Pacers later saw the Pacers take a 109-102 lead with 55.7 seconds to play.
Kelly Olynyk pulled the Heat within four with a three-pointer with 17 seconds to go but they couldn’t get any closer. Bojan Bogdanovic hit a pair of free throws for the Pacers with 8.1 seconds to play to close out the scoring.
Victor Oladipo led the Pacers with 23 points, five assists, and three steals followed by Thaddeus Young with 22 points, nine rebounds, and five steals. Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 18 points and Darren Collison added 12.
Tyler Johnson was one of six players to score in double figures for the Heat with 19 points. James Johnson chipped in 15 and Bam Adebayo added 14 points.
Both teams will have Monday night off but will be back in action Tuesday night. Miami will host the Cleveland Cavaliers while the Pacers head out west to take on the Golden State Warriors. Miami head coach Eric Spoelstra will be back with the team after missing Sunday’s game. He as back in Miami with his wife as she gave birth to their first child, a son.
Along with locking up their own playoff spot, the Pacers win effectively locked the Philadelphia 76ers into one as well. They currently hold onto the No. 4 seed by .002 percentage points over the Pacers. In their last ten games, they will do their best to hold onto home court advantage in the first round.
Should they slip, the Pacers will be happy to take over the No. 4 seed.
“We just don’t want to be in the playoffs, we want to have a great seed and be successful in there,” Oladipo said after the game (IndyStar). “We achieved one goal, now we got to chase the other one. Relax? We just got so much more to prove.