Will Indiana Pacers Actually Miss The Playoffs?

Mar 22, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) returns up court against the Boston Celtics in the second half at TD Garden. Celtics defeated the Pacers 109-100. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 22, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) returns up court against the Boston Celtics in the second half at TD Garden. Celtics defeated the Pacers 109-100. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indiana Pacers are in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference after a rough stretch. Are they in danger of missing the playoffs for only the second time in seven years?

The Indiana Pacers are in a really bad spot. They haven’t put together a winning streak since before the All-Star break. They kept alternating wins and losses until this dreadful stretch of four losses in five games.

Now, the Pacers find themselves in eighth place, just ahead of the Chicago Bulls.

The Pacers have only missed the playoffs once in the previous six seasons. That year was due to Paul George’s injury. Otherwise, the Pacers have been remarkably consistent despite heavy roster turnover.

Only George remains from those peak Pacers team that valiantly fought LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Yes, Lance Stephenson is back, but it doesn’t feel the same at all.

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It’s a very serious concern that the Pacers might miss out on the postseason this year. Indiana is now 37-38. They’re below .500 for the first time since they were 17-18 in early January. The team simply can’t find any forward momentum.

Their last consecutive wins were all the way back in early February.

Worse, the defense seems to be in complete and total disarray. The Pacers haven’t been the vaunted unit of past seasons, but they’ve been respectable for a majority of the season. Now, Indiana can’t stop anyone.

The Pacers have given up more than 100 points four times in the last five games, all losses. Young teams such as the Minnesota Timberwolves (115) and Denver Nuggets (125) have absolutely blasted them.

Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers /

Indiana Pacers

Even an experienced, but inconsistent, offense in the Memphis Grizzlies put up 110 points on Indiana. You’re not going to make the playoffs, let alone cause any chaos once there, by getting walked all over on defense.

The rest of the Pacers’ schedule is a mixed bag and should be enough for them to keep their game-and-a-half advantage over the Bulls. They do play the Toronto Raptors twice, but that team is still feeling itself out with new additions and the Kyle Lowry injury.

They play the Cleveland Cavaliers once, as well as the Milwaukee Bucks. Both those games will be tough, but after that the Pacers finish with the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks.

It’s neither the best nor worst schedule for the Pacers to finish out the season. Given the totality of the season, Indiana has what it takes to make the playoffs playing those teams.

Although with the last week or so and all the grumbling, this team might be in a free fall that just won’t stop until the season is over.

Should the Pacers ultimately get overtaken by the Bulls or even the Detroit Pistons or Charlotte Hornets, the summer would become monumental for this franchise. There have already been whispers about what the team will do with George and how long he has left in Indiana.

Missing the playoffs for a team without a great future? George would almost definitely be gone by the next season.

Clearly, the worst aspect about all this is that there really is no worse position than ninth or 10th place. No good draft pick and no playoff excitement for the franchise, the fans or the young, inexperienced players.

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For the Pacers to go close to 90 percent of this season right in the thick of the playoff discussion and then fade out of the picture in the final weeks would be disastrously disappointing.

Still, who knows? Maybe missing the playoffs would be the best-case scenario for this team. With the way the Pacers are playing right now, there’s no guarantee they could even steal a game away from Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers or Washington Wizards.

What good is making the playoffs if the season still ends a week later in a 4-0 rout?

The final seven games of this season are increasingly important for the Pacers. Playoffs, a good draft pick, the future of George and the futures of a lot of other players hang in the balance.

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The difference between the eighth seed and ninth place could be the difference between blowing it all up without George or trading George to try and remain competitive immediately. It might be hyperbole, but these seven games will go a long way for this Indiana Pacers franchise.