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NBA Central: Pacers stretch division lead look to secure second seed

The NBA playoffs are just a couple of weeks away and the Indiana Pacers are playing at the top of their game. Indiana leads the Central division by 7 games over the fading Chicago Bulls and by 11 over the Milwaukee Bucks. Indiana has won five straight games, including four on the road, and is 8-2 in their last 10 games overall.

The Pacers are also virtually tied for second place in the Eastern Conference playoff race with the New York Knicks.

The Pacers ended a four game road trip on Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers with a win. During the trip, the Pacers went 4-0, giving them 8 wins in their past 9 games overall and do not play again until they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder at home on Friday night.

Roy Hibbert has come on strong during Indiana’s second half of the season and has helped them extend their lead in the division. Hibbert took much criticism for most of the season for his lack of production on the offense, but is seems as though he has turned that around.

During Indiana’s just completed road trip, the Indiana big man averaged 22 points and over 10 rebounds per game. When David West was sidelined, Hibbert’s reemergence on the offensive end helped the Pacers. West was out for six straight games and Hibbert’s fine play helped offset his loss.

Defense has been Indiana’s forte the entire season. Indiana prides itself on tough defense and that has resulted in the Pacers being the number one team in the league in points allowed at just 89.9 per game. The Pacers are also the number one team in NBA in rebounds with an average of 46.3 per game.

Indiana has matured over the season and their game Monday against the Clippers is a fine example of their maturity. During the game, Indiana led by as much as 24 points, but thanks to some turnovers and fine play from the Clippers reserves, Los Angeles was able to cut the lead to just two during the fourth quarter.

However, the Pacers held their composure and were able to nail all eight of their final free throws over the last 32 seconds of the game. That shows how the Pacers have grown up since their loss last season in the playoffs to Miami.

Competitiveness is helping fuel the fire the Pacers are enjoying at this time. Indiana knows that the New York Knicks have won ten straight games and New York is threatening to take away the second seed from the Pacers.

If Indiana does not secure the second seed, they would have to start the second (if they won the first round) round playing at New York.

All these reasons are why Indiana has become one of the top teams in the league and a true threat to the Miami Heat’s attempt to win back-to-back championships.

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