On March 26, the Indiana Pacers defeated the Miami Heat 84-83 in what seemed to seal up the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers had dropped a few games prior to that win, but for the most part it seemed all but over as they were a few games up on Miami.
But since then the Pacers have nearly self-destructed. They have gone 3-8 in their last eleven games and are now looking up to the Heat as the regular season is nearing its conclusion.
All season long it was very clear that Miami and Indiana were the top two teams in the East, but for the latter half of the season it seemed that the Pacers were going to pull away and claim the top spot. But as of right now that does not seem to be the case.
With only four games left (including one more meeting with the Heat in Miami on Friday) the Pacers are in a dark spot. Their players have all been struggling and it seems like the team has been losing its faith in each other. The Heat have six games remaining, but for the most part the Pacers have a harder journey the rest of the way out as they also have to play Oklahoma City one more time. Although you still never know, the Heat have had the tendency to drop some games this season.
Regardless of who finishes atop the East the bigger question is what is wrong with Indiana? The Pacers have gone from one of the most threatening teams in the league to nothing more than a joke over the last few weeks. Is it possible for them to turn it around this late?
The good thing is that the season is almost over and as bad as they have been playing I still don’t believe that they are bad enough to lose in the first round to anyone. And the hope is, of course, that during the playoffs they would figure it out. Something along the lines of turning it on when it matters most, the belief that when the crunch time comes they would be able to fix their issues and return to being a dominating team.
At this point there is really no telling what will happen. The Pacers could magically turn it around and still finish in first place in the East — although I can’t imagine the Heat losing the majority of their games to give Indiana that opportunity. The Heat should be able to jump on this opportunity and claim the all-important home court advantage.
My prediction remains the same. Miami will defeat the currently struggling Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals on their way to their third straight NBA Championship. Unfortunately for the Pacers they are still a few years away from winning an NBA title.
And if nothing else, this current slide at the end of a “championship contending season” proves my theory correct.
Indiana will still have to make some big adjustments to overcome the Heat, and that might still be a few years away.
Tyler Rollason is a Winder-Barrow High School graduate and mass communications major at the University of West Georgia. He writes a weekly sports column for the Barrow Journal. You can e-mail comments about this column to email@example.com.