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Pacers Clinch Playoff Berth, Begin to Look Ahead

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers secured their spot in the 2016 NBA Playoffs tonight with a 129-105 thrashing of the Brooklyn Nets. Indiana’s seed is still yet to be determined, but as we’ve known for a while, they will either enter the postseason as the 7th or 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.

It’s always good to pick up a win, particularly one that clinches a playoff spot. Beyond that, however, is something gained from this that the team really needed.

The Pacers have had a number of poor performances in the latter part of the season, and part of the reason for their inconsistency has been lack of chemistry/lack of leadership. Indiana doesn’t have serious locker room issues, but they do have some that get in the way of team performance at times.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Frank Vogel recently talked about the team having “decent chemistry,” which is basically an admission that it is less than optimal – or worse. After a recent blowout loss to Atlanta (pictured above), guard George Hill was quoted as saying “it’s not about keeping people happy” when asked about fixing the Pacers’ problems. His comment was an allusion to some of his teammates being a bit more concerned about themselves than the team.

The game against Brooklyn, a blowout win in which everyone got to play and contribute, helps team chemistry, at least in the short-term. These guys all feel good about things after that type of victory, coupled with the accomplishment of making the playoffs.

I don’t think it matters who they play in the first round, but what does matter is how the team learns and grows from their playoff experience. Playing either the Cavaliers or Raptors is going to be a struggle, and it will be important to see how the players react when things aren’t going well. In the NBA, that’s usually when teams pull apart, rather than band together.

The Pacers aren’t going to advance past the opening round, but if they gain some valuable playoff experience during this process, and learn to stay together and play for each other when times are tough, then they will have accomplished quite a bit during their brief playoff run.