As the Pacers look to tie-up their first round playoff series with the Hawks at 2-2, one startling statistic regarding the team's postseason performance stands out more than any other in a crowd of disappointing findings:
Is it time for the Pacers to panic? In the past 10 years, all 3 No. 8 seeds up 2-1 in the series went on to win the series.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 25, 2014
As ESPN Stats and Info so forthrightly points out, history is not exactly on the side of the Indiana Pacers. Heading into Game 4, the Pacers are going to need to dig deep if they want to avoid allowing the eighth-seeded Hawks to come one step closer to morphing into this postseason's version of the 2007 Golden State Warriors or 2011 Memphis Grizzlies (a team George Hill and his 2011 Spurs keenly remember).
Reports emanating out of yesterday's practice seem to indicate that the Pacers do, indeed, sense the gravity of the moment:
Hibbert: "Coach got into us this morning (when) we watched the film. We get the message. It’s a must win tomorrow." #Pacers— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) April 25, 2014
Tomorrow's "must win," as Hibbert describes it, will take place in front of a sold out (yes, sold out) and quite likely confident crowd at Philips Arena. Meaning that the Pacers will need to come out of the gates with the same sense of urgency they possessed in the third quarter of Game 2, if they want to return to Indianapolis with home court advantage for the remainder of the series.
Frank Vogel, in supposedly uncharacteristically terse fashion (especially for the winner of the Rudy Tomjanovich award), reportedly told the media present at practice that the team has to, "... play with more passion and more energy and more heart and more guts. It's what we got to do." Like David West stated following his team's Game 3 defeat, "We're not going to panic. We came down here to get one game and that's what we're going to do."
While the combination of the Pacers' poor offensive output and the Hawks' exploitation of defensive switches may seem like cause to begin writing the obituary for the next No. 1 seed to fall victim to an eight seed, reports on the team's oft-criticized mindset coming out of practice seem to reflect a team focused on the importance of the task at hand. Paul George readily noted the difference in energy between Game 2 and Game 3, and when asked about the adjustments he expects the team to make before Game 4, Roy Hibbert responded, "Do whatever coach feels necessary to win."
Although ESPN stats and info's historical findings paint a dismal picture for the East's top seed, it is important to remember that the past does not always inform on the future, and the Pacers do not have to be active participants in their own self-fulfilling prophecy. For a team that began the season with so much promise at 40-11, getting ousted in the first round to a team below .500 just does not seem like the proper ending to this era of Pacers' basketball. Like Paul George told ESPN's Mike Wells, "We wouldn't have put so much stress on getting the No. 1 seed and really battling hard to get in the position we're in now if we didn't want it. This is where we prove we want it right now."
How much do the Pacers want it? We will find out in today's two o'clock matinee.
For more on Game 4 and the state of the Pacers, check out the links: