Much has been made about this team’s performance under Frank Vogel. Hey, they’re 15-14 since they fired O’Brien.
I’ve already outlined how bad many of those 14 losses are. The wins aren’t all that impressive, either. Only two teams have had an easier schedule than the Pacers (.463) between January 30th and March 25th. They’ve won five of their last eight games. The five wins have been by a combined 49 points. The three losses have been by a combined 50 points.
The more you look at what’s happening now, the more you have to ask yourself if we haven’t seen this before. In 2008, the Pacers were 15-14 after the All Star break and won 11 of their last 16 ballgames. In 2009, Indy posted a 15-13 post All Star break record and won eight of their final 12. Last season, with one of the worst teams in franchise history, they won 10 of their final 14 games to go 14-16 after the break. These were all written off as a bad team playing hard after most other bad teams had pulled the chute, and broadly criticized as doing nothing but hurting their draft position.
Is what we’re seeing now really any different?
The immediate reaction will be to say, “Yes. They are going to make the playoffs, and that makes a world of difference.” Well, it does, and it doesn’t.
They are going to make the playoffs. They probably only have to win three or perhaps four games to lock it up, and there are only four teams it the Association who have an easier schedule between now and the end of the season. But, really, the Pacers (like the Knicks) are going to the playoffs because they have to take eight teams from the East, and there are only six non-train wrecks in the conference.
And going to the playoffs is a positive, both for the franchise and for the players. But this isn’t a “playoff team” by any stretch of the imagination.