The Indiana Pacers can clinch a playoff spot as early as tonight. With a Chicago Bulls loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Pacers will punch their ticket into the postseason.
The Indiana Pacers lost to the Toronto Raptors last night in embarrassing fashion, falling to the second-best team in the Eastern Conference by a score of 111-98. Had the Pacers beaten the Raptors, they would have earned their rights to play beyond their last regular season game on April 13 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Pacers played sloppy and looked like they had no fight in them against the Raptors — almost as if they weren’t even interested in attempting to make a push for the postseason.
As of right now, Indiana sits as the eight-seed in the Eastern Conference and ahead of the Bulls by three games. At this point it seems that the Pacers pretty much have a playoff spot locked up. What remains to be figured out is whether or not the Pacers will end the season as an eighth or seventh seed, playing either Cleveland or Toronto respectively.
For the Pacers to be eliminated from playoff contention, the Bulls would need to win out their last three games and have the Pacers lose at least one of their next three remaining games. For the Bulls, they take on the likes of the Cavaliers, New Orleans Pelicans and the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pacers’ last three games of the regular season has the team facing the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks.
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Considering that both the Pelicans and 76ers rank amongst the bottom-tier teams in the NBA, the Bulls shouldn’t have much of a problem with securing victories against both teams. The real test for Chicago will come when they take LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
The Bulls lead the season series against the Cavaliers, having won two out of the three match ups that both teams have played so far this season. However, this does not mean that the Bulls will necessarily mirror that same success against a Cavaliers team that has been hot as of late.
The next three games for the Pacers seem more favorable towards the team remaining in the hunt for the playoffs. The Pacers have won a total of six out of the eight match-ups against the Nets, Knicks and Bucks combined this season.
With the Pacers looking like they have all but secured their spot in the playoffs, the real question rests on just who they will face in the first round. It is very possible that the Pacers, who are only half of a game behind the seventh-seeded Detroit Pistons, could move up one seed by the middle of next week if the Pistons end up losing either one of their last two games. If that ends up being the case then the Pacers would look to be facing the Raptors come playoff time, whom they have only won one of the four games played between the two teams this season.
Regardless of all of these factors mentioned, the Bulls would have to win out the rest of the year and the Pacers would have to have an absolute collapse for the Pacers to be knocked out of postseason contention. All eyes will be on James and the Cavaliers tonight as they look to aid Indiana by ending any hopes that Chicago has of playing beyond the regular season.