It's not a real surprise the Indiana Pacers would fall to the Philadelphia 76ers when resting four of their starters , but an 11-0 deficit out of the gate and a 22-point halftime deficit that Indiana could only trim to 17 after three, it's somewhat disappointing they weren't making it a better effort on either end. Indiana struggled from the line early, couldn't hit shots, and weren't defending.
The only bright spot heading into the final period was a big third quarter from Gerald Green, but Green not only managed to carry his positive play into the fourth, but got some big contributions from Ben Hansbrough and Jeff Pendergraph to at least make it a game. The end result of tonight's game wasn't of real importance, except to clinch their 50th win of the season, but rather to try and get some kind of positives from the bench.
There wasn't a whole lot of fan appreciation play in the first half and Dan Burke wasn't pleased with the effort at the half when Indiana trailed 59-37. But it ended up being a fun one thanks to those efforts from Green, Hansbrough, and Pendergraph especially. Gerald Green had a career high night of 34, going 14-23 from the floor, hitting six three pointers.
Ben Hansbrough also had a career high, scoring 11, including 5-5 from the free throw line. Hansbrough really helped guide the Pacers back, a real surprise given what little of Hansbrough Pacers fans had seen this season. With the rotations tightening up, it would probably be a stretch to expect this effort to make the coaching staff give Ben a second look as a potential backup point guard to George Hill, when D.J. Augustin had just three points to go along with five assists.
If nothing else, it ended up being a nice memento of Ben regardless of his postseason contributions, but a player who should be getting serious consideration as a postseason rotation player is Jeff Pendergraph, who had 12 points and six rebounds. His jumper continues to surprise and he's evolved lately as one of the most reliable bench players. Is that good or bad? Well, any production can't be bad from a bench that needs any production.
So while Indiana finishes the regular season at 49-32, their playoff opponent is finally set, with the Atlanta Hawks falling in New York 98-92, making Atlanta Indiana's first round opponent for the first time since 1996 when the Hawks eliminated Indiana 3-2, the Pacers being without Reggie Miller for the first four games of the series. Historically, this is the fifth postseason matchup between the two teams, each team winning twice, including three consecutive matchups between 1994-1996.
More recently, the Pacers and Hawks split their season series, the Pacers winning the last two games. The Pacers will be tested out of the gate despite this series likely being hidden deep in the recesses of NBA TV. Game 1 will be played on Sunday, the time will be announced later. Get ready, it's finally Pacers playoff time!