It’s a little hard to believe the Pacers only have eight games left on the schedule before playoff time, but here we are.
This 2018-19 season has undoubtedly been a bit of a roller coaster, with the biggest twist being Victor Oladipo’s season-ending injury. Several other key Pacers players have also struggled with injuries along the way as well, as faces new and old have been forced to step up.
No matter where the wear-and-tear meter happens to be at right now, though, coach Nate McMillan insists that the Pacers are going all-in on locking up the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
“I talked with the players about what we were thinking,” said McMillan after the Pacers’ 124-88 win over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, March 24. “We’ve made the playoffs, but we still have an opportunity for home court advantage.”
“The guys that we were targeting [for rest] were Thaddeus, Bogey, and Cory, and they all three basically said, ‘Look, we’re fine. Let’s play this thing out.’ Which is what I expected them to say,” McMillan continued. “So that’s the approach. We’re gonna play it out and try to get this fourth seed if possible.”
Currently, the Pacers are two games up on the fifth-seeded Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings with eight games to go. During this final stretch of the regular season, however, Boston and Indiana will face off twice, meeting once at TD Garden (Friday, March 29) and once at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Friday, April 5).
In just glancing at the Celtics’ and Pacers’ home and away records, it becomes even more clear why Indiana is fighting so hard to maintain the fourth seed and home court advantage. So far this season, Indiana (28-9) and Boston (26-14) have both been impressive at home, while posting subpar results on the road.
In their two match-ups thus far this season, these tendencies have remained consistent. On Nov. 3, the Pacers defeated the Celtics 102-101 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in one of the team’s most memorable wins this season. In contrast, Indiana suffered one of its most forgettable losses at TD Garden on Wednesday, Jan. 9, falling to Boston by a score of 135-108. The blowout also featured three technical fouls on the Pacers, including one on the typically mild-mannered McMillan.
While the Pacers have already fought through a lot this season, it is ultimately these final eight regular season games that will show what the team is all about. By standing their ground in the No. 4 seed, the Pacers will not only reward themselves, but also a fan base that has given them much-needed boosts all season long.
Here’s to hoping for the best.