This is where it gets interesting. I don't know exactly where the Pacers are going these playoffs, but the rest of the league - even Pacers fans - seem to be overlooking them. I'm sure that's just the way Carlisle, Bird and Walsh like it.
You're missing Artest for the playoffs - that's a given.
All indications are that Tinsley's coming back soon. A lot of guys are beat up some - but every team's beat up some. JO's back to being effective, Jax has been impressive as long as the knee holds up, Reggie's been unbelievable ... and here's what I keep coming back to.
You may go into the Detroit series closer to full strength than you've been all season.
At the start of the season you were missing Reggie, Foster and, IIRC, Pollard. At various times you've been missing half your lineup.
You're in the playoffs - more rest between games. You're in the playoffs - longer TO's so you can shorten your bench.
I don't think anyone in the league realizes this but IMO, you get Tinsley back at anything approaching full strength, if SJax and JO are on their game and Reggie keeps it up, if Pollard, DD and Foster stay effective, if JJ, AJ and Freddie have their games working, and I think you could put the best team you've had all season on the floor vs Detroit.
Look at it this way - from a team standpoint, would you trade Reggie, Foster, Pollard, AJ's radically improved play and JJ's and Freddie's improved play (the last three all due to suspensions & injuries) for Artest? Which team's better - the one that took the floor November 19 or this one? JJ and Freddie were supposed to be scrubs this year. AJ was just the guy you put on the floor for 15 minutes and hoped he didn't screw up too bad. They aren't those players any more - and you didn't have Dale Davis. You're ten quality players deep - and Gill and AC are nothing to be ashamed of at 11 and 12.
It really seems like it's coming together for you guys - and I don't think anyone has a clue this is happening - including Detroit. Think about it for a bit. Work through your lineup - the quality at the top, the size, the depth, the number of players who've shown they can be counted on when it matters this season. The more I think about it the more I think you have a solid shot to be playing for quite some time yet.
I have a feeling I'm about to watch a very interesting thing unfold. I think I'll just strap in and enjoy the ride.