Pacers Links: Pacers post-season path may be determined by strategic results on final day of regular season

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Pacers and Heat appeared to be jockeying for a preferred playoff spot but now that the top of the East is set, the rest of the playoff teams are trying to set up their own favorable matchups.

The glaring negative derived from seeing the Pacers clinch the top seed  in the East on Monday was the path they appeared to have in front of them which, at the time, included playing Atlanta, then the winner of a Chicago/Brooklyn series. If they could survive those troubled waters, the Heat would be waiting for them in the Eastern Conference Finals after avoided all of the experienced playoff teams on their side of the bracket.

Then Tuesday happened.

Suddenly, the Nets dropping to the six seed is in play while the Bulls could still jump to the three seed and flip this whole playoff narrative on its head. All that has to happen on Wednesday is the Nets lose at Cleveland, Wizards beat Boston, Raptors lose at Knicks, and Bulls beat Charlotte and then the Pacers would have a second round series against the winner of a Raptors/Wizards series.

For the record, I love this subplot to close out the regular season. Bob Kravitz took issue with how the Pacers and Heat have closed out the regular season by not so subtly trying to finish in the East's second slot, describing the whole process as distasteful.

I call it strategic.

If you set yourself up in the regular season to dictate terms of your playoff matchups then more power to you. The Pacers favor their home court advantage more than any other team in the NBA. Makes sense, considering they have the best home record in the league. Meanwhile, the Heat have yet to beat the Nets, so of course they would prefer avoiding them as long as possible in their playoff journey.

But... not the Nets are the linchpin to the last day drama since they have been the best team in the East over the last half of the season. Usually, the best teams float to the top of the bracket by the end of the season, but that's not the case this year. And now, the Nets are either running out of juice or trying to have their cake and eat it to while working from the middle of the standings. Quite impressive. Keep in mind, Brooklyn is 4-0 against the Heat this year and 0-4 against the Pacers.

There's also the 'careful what you wish for' theory in play for the Pacers. The Raptors have been a brutal matchup with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross enjoying their matchups against the Pacers at times this year. Still, this Raptors' team (nor Wizards, should they beat Toronto) have playoff experience which usually comes into play. The Pacers are built for the playoffs and have acute awareness of what to expect. Playing a team with limited playoff experience would be a bonus.

Then all the Pacers have to do is win.

Check out the links:

Kravitz: Pacers, Heat efforts not to be No. 1 are distasteful - Indy Star

Game Preview: Pacers at Magic | THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE INDIANA PACERS

Stephenson, George, West and Watson to all sit vs Magic | Pacers Blogs

Hidden Gems of the Pacers' Playoff History: #1 - 1969 ABA Eastern Conference First-Round Series, Game 2 | THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE INDIANA PACERS

Teammate’s hunger kept West, George from marathon finish when bombs exploded

Magic vs. Pacers: Season ends as East's top team visits - Orlando Pinstriped Post

Pacers-Magic Preview - AP

Top-seeded Pacers to rest 3 starters in finale - AP

3 starters sit as Pacers prepare for Atlanta in playoffs

Mason Plumlee thinks the Pacers are a tougher team to beat than the Heat - NetsDaily

C.J. Watson Proves What Having Him Back Is Worth - 8 Points, 9 Seconds

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