After the Pacers and Bulls split a home-and-home series over the past four days, I think it is safe to say that home court advantage in the playoffs is critical for the Pacers. Wow, these two games played out differently in the two different gyms.
From the officiating to the level of play from each team on the other's court, the difference was drastic. The Pacers lost by 12 points but, just as their 13-point win felt like 20-plus, it seemed like they never had a chance in the second half. Although it wouldn't take long to go through the game and find a minimum of six possessions that could've easily gone the other way to even things up. Of course, that would be a torturous process, being forced to look at all of those dumped opportunities again.
And don't bother with the officiating. While you could technically point to several head-scratching calls, the Pacers did nothing to attack and earn the benefit of the doubt on calls throughout the game. You go soft, officials start to expect it and force you to finish plays before getting a whistle.
The Pacers had a chance to wrap up the Central Division, but the Bulls played with far more motivation. Not only did Chicago want to avenge the loss in Indy, but they also didn't want the Pacers clinching the Central on their home floor. Mission accomplished for the Bulls.
Meanwhile in Miami, the Heat made a pair of late plays to secure a two-point win over Portland and draw within two games of the Pacers. If they leave the Fieldhouse on Wednesday with a win, the teams will be deadlocked in the loss column. As we saw last night, home court advantage means more to the Pacers so if they can't defend it on Wednesday against the Heat, their early-season work will finally fall by the wayside.
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