Prior to the All-Star break, it seemed a given that the Pacers would at least make the Conference Finals in the East. Then, in one of the most bizarre stretches in memory, looking more like a team that could barely compete with the Milwaukee Bucks, let alone the Miami Heat.
But when their backs were against the wall, down 3-2 to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs, the Pacers pulled out back-to-back wins and advanced into the conference semi-finals. There, they met a young, energetic Wizards squad that surprised them in Game 1. However, much to the chagrin of Pacers faithful, Roy Hibbert found the mojo that had escaped him for months on end, pouring in 28, 14, and 17 points over the last three games, with a little help from Paul George in Game 4, where he added 39 points to help lead a comeback and take command of the series, 3-1.
Blue collar, gold swagger is back.
Tonight, the Pacers can be the first team to finish off their season in the second round with a win at home, something few would have believed possible midway through the first round. With a win, the Pacers would make their third straight Conference Finals, likely to meet the Miami Heat again (assuming they finish off their series, which they lead 3-1).
With Hibbert and George leading the way, the Pacers will likely finish off this series, if not tonight, in one of the two other remaining games.
Meanwhile, the Lakers hallway rivals are in the middle of a hotly contested battle with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Following a spirited comeback in Game 4, the Clippers tied the series at two games a piece. In tonight’s Game 5, the opportunity to take control of the series is at hand. The winner will have home-court advantage to finish the series and most likely will have the fast track to the Western Conference Finals.
Both games tonight will be on TNT, with the Pacers-Wiz tipping at 7 and the Thunder-Clippers set for 9:30.