The Indiana Pacers, combining a hot start and a woeful Eastern Conference, became the first NBA team to clinch a playoff berth this season, claiming a spot despite a 109-87 thumping at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday night.
No, the Pacers are in because the Detroit Pistons lost to the Chicago Bulls for their 37th loss of the season.
But can Indiana, with two straight losses, hold on to their No. 1 spot in the HoopsHabit.com NBA Power Rankings? The Pacers jumped ahead of Oklahoma City last week after the Thunder dropped three straight.
There have been lots of troubling signs for Indiana of late. They’ve been run on by Minnesota and Milwaukee in recent games and Charlotte pounded the Pacers inside, scoring 44 points in the paint, which is almost 10 more than Indiana surrenders per game.
Golden State found room for 20 3-point attempts on Tuesday, so there are all sorts of dents in Indiana’s once-impenetrable defense.
“We can’t get teams under control,” David West told USA Today after Wednesday’s loss in Charlotte. “Nobody’s afraid of us and we got to regroup. We got to get back to the basics. We got a tough two-game trip out West and it’s got to mean something to us to go out and do whatever we have to do to win these games.”
And with that, on to the NBA Power Rankings for this week (all statistical information via nba.com/Stats):