Q. There has been much talk about whether the Pacers will be upset in the first round like last year. If they do end up playing Boston, regardless of the "new poise" we have acquired, what assurance is there that we won't experience a repeat? After all, we didn't play that bad last year, Boston just played very well. (From Ellis in Zihuatinejo, Mexico)
A. There are no guarantees, but there’s little question the Pacers will be on much stronger footing when the postseason rolls around, regardless of the matchup. Last year, the team was under the duress of some extremely negative momentum heading into the postseason, with the combination of personal and family traumas contributing to the 11-19 collapse after the All-Star break. Though Boston was the underdog as the sixth seed, the Celtics were largely the same team that reached the conference finals the year before and therefore had that playoff confidence to call upon.
It’s safe to assume the Pacers aren’t going to undergo any kind of collapse in the final 16 games. They’re going to enter the playoffs as no worse than the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, possibly the NBA, and on a mission. After three consecutive years of first-round eliminations, the Pacers will be a team with something to prove. Mix in the perception that they have been treated with little respect this season, despite their lofty record, and there will be no shortage of motivational carrots. When talent, coaching and motivation combine, it forms a potent mix. When the playoffs began last year, the team was surrounded by question marks. This year, it is surrounded by exclamation points
I think he pretty much sums up what we have been thinking and what the players have been saying to the media. They look real focused, and they are taking one game at a time. I don't see us collapsing like we did last year, even if we play Cleveland.