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Pacers Have Plenty Of Work Left Before The Playoffs Begin

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The Indiana Pacers can exhale. They made it back to the playoffs despite all of the struggles they endured throughout the season.

But the season isn't over. With three games remaining against Eastern Conference playoff teams (Atlanta, New York, @Orlando), the Pacers have a chance for three full playoff dress rehearsals before the real thing. A wonderful opportunity to keep building on the positives and clean up the negatives.

According to Mike Wells, Frank Vogel doesn't plan to sit any players, although he'll probably extend the playing rotation, likely giving some run to Lance Stephenson. That sounds fine as long as the Pacers play to win. Building a little positive momentum is huge for a team that has its confidence so easily shaken. Plus, just getting over the hump against the Hawks would be a nice, ahem, feather in their cap to cap off the regular season.

Like the Pacers, Orlando and Atlanta are locked into their playoff position so there's no excuse for outworking those teams. The Knicksare in a battle for the 6th spot in the playoffs, so the Pacers will have to give the Knicks their full attention. But, come on, the Knicks at the Fieldhouse? Shouldn't be a problem getting jacked up for that game.

So yes, the Pacers no longer have the pressure of trying to hang onto their playoff spot, but they're in no position to shut it down for the final three games. There's a difference between relaxing, taking their foot off the gas, and playing relaxed, letting it rip with no worries since they've clinched a playoff spot.

The mindset of the Pacers has made this a maddening season at times. Losing by double-digits in their last nine losses, made each loss seem doubly bad. But after losing six-straight games, the Pacers went 9-5 to clinch with three games to spare and when they've been on point, they've been a blast to watch.

No sense stopping now. Consider the last three games a perfect chance to fine tune their game and mindset for the playoffs.