No. 2 Seed a Must for Indiana

The Pacers and Knicks look to be on a collision course to meet in the playoffs.

New York and Indiana look to be on a collision course to meet in the playoffs.

In less than two weeks, playoff brackets will be set and playoff action will commence as the NBA looks to crown its latest champion.

In the Eastern Conference we know who’s going, but not where they’ll start. Well, except Miami. Everybody knows the Heat is starting in South Beach.

Where teams start will be vital moving forward, and for Indiana the difference between a No. 2 and No. 3 seed could prove to be monolithic.

Currently third in the conference, Indiana (48-28) is beginning to look like a team that needs to finish second – namely, above New York – if it is to progress late into the postseason. BettingSports.com now explains why.

Scenario: Indiana finishes No. 2

In all likelihood, Boston (39-37) will finish with the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. Yes, it’s possible that Milwaukee (36-39) could make one final push, or the Celtics could surge up the table leaving Atlanta (42-35), Brooklyn (43-32) and Chicago (42-33) as a potential first round opponent, but on current form, the Celtics look like a lock for No. 7.

That’s not necessarily a good thing for Indiana. Boston is 2-0 against the Pacers this season. The Pacers will get a crack at winning one game against the Celtics before the season is out when the two sides meet in Bean Town on Apr. 16.

Despite the losing record, Indiana has more than enough to beat the injury-plagued Celtics over a seven-game series and advance to the second round where they would likely meet New York (49-26). Okay, we’re making a lot of assumptions here but current form suggests the Knicks will escape the first round.

Indiana currently holds a 2-1 advantage over the Knicks, although the sides meet once more at Madison Square Garden on Apr. 14. We know the Pacers can beat the Knicks, but can they do it on the road? This is where it becomes vital for Indiana to finish second.

Having home court advantage here could prove vital. The Pacers (29-9 home) are a much better team when playing in Indianapolis. New York (21-16 road), while being solid on the road, isn’t as tough as when playing in the Garden.

With an extra game at home, the Pacers will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals where, barring a shift in the space-time continuum, they’ll face Miami (59-16). Nobody would give Indiana the time of the day in this one, but the Pacers are 2-1 against the Heat this season. Indiana is arguably the Eastern Conference’s best bet for upending Miami and making it to the NBA Finals.

Now, what happens if Indiana finishes just one place behind New York?

"Best Buds" Reggie Miller and Spike Lee know all about the Knicks-Pacers rivalry.

“Best Buds” Reggie Miller and Spike Lee know all about the Knicks-Pacers rivalry.

Scenario: Indiana finishes No. 3

A third-place finish will set up an opening round game with the No. 6 seed which will be…

Atlanta is the No. 6 seed as it stands but with two games in hand, the Hawks could swoop past Chicago. With just two games separating Atlanta, Chicago and Brooklyn, a sustained push by any team changes the playoff landscape dramatically.

In a best case scenario, Indiana faces division rival Chicago, who it owns a 3-1 record against this season. In a worst case scenario, the side takes on Brooklyn, winners of both games against the Pacers this season. An Apr. 12 game between the sides in Indianapolis could boost the Pacers confidence. As for Atlanta; the two sides split the season series 2-2, each winning on their home court. Advantage: Indiana.

Now, it becomes apparent that just by finishing one spot higher in the playoff seeding, Indiana would have a little more idea (read: more preparation time) as to who it will face in the opening round.

Now, let’s say the Pacers advance from the opening round. Again, this sets up the potential series with the Knicks. This time though, the Manhattan side would have home court advantage.

Would you back the Pacers to win in Manhattan during the playoffs? That’s what they would need to do at least once. The Knicks (28-10 home) have been hard to beat at MSG and Indiana (19-19 road) hasn’t been the most convincing of road teams. Dropping a game at home would mean winning twice in New York. Dropping a second home game? Well, you get the picture.

If the Knicks and Pacers meet when New York has the home court advantage, it’s game over for Indiana.

The Final Stretch

So, can Indiana make it to the No. 2 seed?

The answer, of course, is year, but the real question is, will they?

In theory, the Pacers have an easier final stretch than New York. Indiana’s opponents are a combined 213-238 (.472) while New York’s opponents are 257-273 (.485). The Pacers are 10-6 (.625) against those opponents, while the Knicks are 9-7 (.563).

Indiana faces three playoff-bound teams, while New York faces four. The Pacers have three games remaining on the road, while the Knicks have four, starting with Sunday’s game in Oklahoma City.

Everything looks in place for the Pacers to reach the second seed. Well, nearly everything.

Indiana is currently 1.5 games back of the Knicks. The Knicks have an extra game that could turn that lead into two. At this time of the year that feels more like four. The Knicks also happen to be on a 10-game winning streak.

When you take a look at the schedule, taking into account head-to-head records this season, both sides look like they have four more wins in them. That means New York edges the race by a game.

Of course, at this time of year anything can (and will) happen, so prognosticating about who finishes where can be somewhat moot.

One thing we can be certain of though; next Sunday’s visit to Madison Square Garden is going to be absolutely huge for Indiana and its championship hopes going forward.

 

Remaining Schedule (Indiana)

Apr. 6; at Washington

Apr. 9; vs. Cleveland

Apr. 12; vs. Brooklyn

Apr. 14; at New York

Apr. 16; at Boston

Apr. 17; vs. Philadelphia

Remaining Schedule (New York)

Apr. 7; at Oklahoma City

Apr. 9; vs. Washington

Apr. 11; at Chicago

Apr. 12; at Cleveland

Apr. 14; vs. Indiana

Apr. 15; at Charlotte

Apr. 17; vs. Atlanta

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