The Indiana Pacers sit in an awkward position as most eight seeds do at the beginning of the playoffs. The only team with a losing record to qualify, the young team’s achievement can quickly turn sour as they’ll constantly be told of their slim-to-none chances to compete against the conference’s top team. Most people see the Pacers as the Bulls’ appetizer before moving on to face real playoff caliber teams.
The Pacers, however, see things differently.
They’re doing their best to use people’s low expectations as motivation. While none of the Pacers are ready to go Joe Namath and guarantee a first-round upset, they’re also not ready to concede defeat at this point. They understand that they have nothing to lose and intend on using that to their advantage.
“Not much is expected outside of our locker room,” Tyler Hansbrough said. “We have a lot of expectations within the organization and we’re looking to do a lot of things nobody thinks we can.”
The Pacers have fought through a very up-and-down season to make their first postseason appearance since 2006. The rough waters, however, are something that could help the young team in their playoff first series of the Danny Granger era. They’re going to run into some adversity, fairy early, against the Chicago Bulls. Dealing with injuries, a coaching change and various mishaps throughout the season should help them deal with the frustrations a playoff series offers.
“We had some early mishaps this season,” Roy Hibbert said. “We regrouped and did what we needed to do to make the playoffs, now we’re ready to make some noise. We’re not satisfied with just making the playoffs, we want to go deep. We know we have our work cut out for us and plan on going to Chicago and giving it our all.”
The Pacers playoffs inexperience may limit the noise they hope to make. It is also a factor that head coach Frank Vogel feels could work in their favor in their best-of-seven series.
“Sometimes inexperience works in your favor,” Vogel said. “You just go out without a lot of expectations and play relaxed basketball.”
“They already understand it’s going to be more intense than the regular season and that the atmosphere is going to be one that we haven’t experienced. We have enough veterans on this team to help our young guys get through it. We’re really looking forward to the opportunity of competing in the playoffs.”
Danny Granger is especially looking forward to getting back to the playoffs.
In only his second playoff appearance, the 27-year-old forward plans on going full speed at the Bulls from start to finish, making them use their respected defense to stop his offensive attack. He understands that the Bulls have everything to lose and plans on doing his part to make their job a lot tougher.
“Pedal to the medal,” Granger said. “I’m going to go out there and be ultra aggressive. We really have nothing to lose and now isn’t the time to be timid.”
“We all have to have the mindset that picking and choosing our spots, but we have to attack that defense because it’s so good. They’re a tough matchup for anyone. You have to find different ways to attack their defense because they play so well. We’re very excited to be playing one of the league’s best teams with one of the league’s best players.”
“It’s going to be a dogfight; we have to bring our best game."