Deja vu, anyone?
Though it could be, this should not be misconstrued as a veiled reference to the continuance of the Pacers' late season slump. Rather, the french phrase translated as "already seen" is being employed here to underscore the fact that the Blue and Gold's latest performance against the Miami Heat was, seemingly, "already seen."
Think back to May 30, 2013, if you will. It is the Eastern Conference Finals, and Game 5 is taking place at American Airlines Arena. The Pacers put in a solid first half of basketball only to lay an egg in the third quarter where Miami outscores them 30-13. Throughout the contest, the Blue and Gold are plagued by atrocious guard play as the team hailing from South Beach turns their opponent over at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, the Pacers struggle to play defense without fouling, and they are whistled for 19 fouls in comparison to the Heat's 11. On the night, George Hill goes 0-of-4 from the field, and the back court combines for a grand total of five points.
Fast-forward to the present. In what now seems like Groundhog's Day, the Pacers went into halftime of last night's contest trailing by just three points. Yet, not unlike last year's postseason game, Miami scored the first 16 points of the second half and never looked back. On May 30th, Indiana coughed up the ball 17 times. Last night, they committed 16 giveaways, which translated into 20 points off turnovers for the Heat. With almost an identical officiating crew, the Pacers, once again, found themselves in foul trouble as they watched Miami attempt 28 free throws at the charity stripe. George Hill played 32 minutes, and, yet, never even managed to attempt one field goal and never tallied a single point.
As can be observed, these two contests were practically mirror images of one another. Indiana - caught back on their heals - failed, once again, to execute against Miami's half court pressure. In the absence of quicker ball movement, basket cuts, and effective post entry passes, the Pacers' struggled just to get into their offense, and their biggest asset in this match-up, Roy Hibbert, was more or less neutralized.
Although the Pacers failed to come away with a victory in what, ironically, was a pseudo-Game 7 to prevent an actual Game 7 in Miami, the Blue and Gold have, somewhat impressively, now gone 7-7 against the Heat over the course of the last two seasons. With regard to the standings, the Pacers are now a half of a game back of their Eastern Conference rival with only two games remaining. Yet, following the loss, the Pacers seemed to be at peace with the idea of being second best and regaining their "underdog" status, with Lance Stephenson telling the Indy Star:
"Whatever God put us as, I feel like if he puts us in the second place or he puts us in first place, we got to live up to the challenge. But I like us as underdogs and us coming after people. I feel like we got to get used to playing under pressure and being on top."
With regard to losing the East's top seed, Paul George added, "Now its not in our hands and we're perfectly fine with that." The soonest the Heat can clinch the East's top spot is Monday, following wins against Atlanta and Washington, and a Pacers loss on Sunday.
After a few shake-ups in the East, if the playoffs started tomorrow, the Blue and Gold would now be looking at a first round match-up with the Charlotte Bobcats (7). If they advance to the semi-finals, they would play the winner of a first round series between Chicago (3) and Washington (6). As far as the remainder of the regular season goes, the Oklahoma City Thunder are next up on the docket. With the Spurs defeating the Suns last night, the top seed in the Western Conference is no longer an option for OKC.
For more on the Pacers' recent loss, upcoming opponents, and the playoff standings, check out the links: