For those of you tired of reading about playoff previews, predictions and analysis of match-ups, sit back, grab a cold beverage, and read my lighthearted prediction for how I expect/want the playoffs to go.
First Round The series against the Hawks gets off to a rocky start for the Pacers, as they split the first two games at home. Basically, it's what you'd expect. The Hawks are just too hot from the perimeter, with Pero Antic especially tearing up the flat-footed Roy Hibbert. Unfortunately, Hibbert isn't able to use his size inside to make the Hawks pay on the defensive end. After a lackluster 1st half from Hibbert in game 3, Vogel finally starts looking for other solutions. He tries everyone: Mahinmi, Scola, Allen. None of it works as the Hawks win game 3 and take a 2-1 series lead. National sportswriters prepare their Pacers obituaries.
However, in game 4, Vogel finally settles on the answer to the Pacers problems at center: Chris Copeland. A stretch-five himself, Copeland lights it up on Antic, splashing threes and driving in for layups. Copeland leads the Pacers to three straight victories, clinching the series in 6 games.
Second Round Things aren't looking good for Indiana as "What's wrong with Hibbert?" and "Pacers needed 6 games to finish off the lowly Hawks" stories dominate the headlines. Meanwhile, Chicago sweeps the inexperienced Wizards in their first round match-up. During the Bulls' long layoff, Derrick Rose announces that he has healed from his meniscus surgery and will return for the second round. David West fumes as basketball "experts" across the country, including all of the ESPN panelists, predict the Bulls to eliminate the Pacers. What nobody notices, however, is the look in Roy Hibbert's eyes as he watches Joakim Noah win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Once the basketball starts, Hibbert comes out playing with more passion than ever before and absolutely annihilates Noah. The rest of the team plays pretty well too. Highlights from the first three games, all Pacers wins, include Lance getting ejected in game 3 for mocking the Carlos Boozer head wiggle and Roy Hibbert dunks shattering the backboard in games 2 and 3. As the support tumbles to the court in game 3, the rim hits Rose in the head. He leaves the game, with the Pacers up by 24 at that point, but is cleared to play in game 4, despite complaining of holes in his long term memory.
Game 4 goes as the previous three went, a Pacers blowout victory. As the Pacers celebrate the sweep, first at center court in the United Center, then in the locker room, Derrick Rose can't shake a feeling of deja-vu. "Have they celebrated like that before?" He asks Noah, while walking past the raucous visiting locker room.
Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, Danny Granger and the Clippers are engaged in a hard-fought series with the Grizzlies. One day during practice, Danny floats an idea to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin: "Did you guys ever think about, maybe, not flopping so much?" Granger is immediately cut from the Clippers for "conduct detrimental to the team". Bird quickly hires Danny as an assistant coach for the Pacers.
Conference Finals Finally, it's the series everyone has been waiting for: Pacers vs Heat. The series is as exciting as everyone had hoped, with great basketball and tight finishes. The home team wins every game, meaning the Pacers head into game 6 with a 3-2 lead. Some minor news before game 6: Andrew Bynum is cleared to play. In the second half of game 6, first Mahinmi then Hibbert are called for their 5th fouls. Frank sends Bynum in. He starts scoring at will against Udonis Haslem, who'd previously been doing a pretty good job against Hibbert. Spoelstra dusts off Greg Oden, but even he can't stop Bynum. Bynum scores 17 second half points, including a shotclock-beating three-pointer from near mid court, to lead the Pacers to the series win. The Pacers finally have beaten the Heat.
NBA Finals The Pacers' opponents in the NBA Finals are the Memphis Grizzlies. The series features excellent defense. In only two of the seven games does the winning team score more than 90 points. In a sideline interview that quickly turns dark, civilian David Stern chews out a sobbing Adam Silver. "I'm not even gone for a full year and this is what happens!?! Indiana and Memphis!?!?! WHAT THE F%@# WERE YOU THINKING, ADAM?!?!?!". When the dust settles, Indiana wins game 7 83-77. George Hill is named Finals MVP. A "Trade George Hill while his value is high" fanpost appears on Indycornrows. The Pacers don't care, they're too busy celebrating.
In the offseason, Lance Stephenson re-signs with the Pacers.