"I'm not about to go pop some champagne bottles or anything like that," said Paul Pierce after his Boston Celtics had secured their fifth straight Atlantic Division title, "It's a good accomplishment, I guess. But all we care about around here is a championship banner." The Captain's comments originating from the Celtics' 2011-2012 season may come off as cavalier to outsiders, but, let's face it, out in Beantown they do not even hang division championship banners. After all, with 17 NBA titles, there is not a whole lot of extra space in the rafters of TD Garden.
After clinching their second consecutive Central Division crown with a win over their conference rival, the Pacers were not quite as jaded by their regular season success as the player they call The Truth, but their was a definite sense that they will not be satisfied if winning the division is the only goal they realize this season.
When asked by Pacers.com to reflect on the achievement, Frank Vogel admitted that securing the Central Division title was "quite an accomplishment," but qualified his comments by adding, "Obviously, we have bigger goals." Likewise, David West said, "It's good," before quickly tagging on, "Its a good step." George Hill noted that clinching the Central was "a great accomplishment for the organization as well as the team," but went on to describe the honor as "a stepping stone" toward winning the league championship.
The Pacers' came into this season with an obvious championship or bust mentality. From day one, they have understood that every game's outcome would either advance or hamper their efforts to claim the title. In order to succeed, they, individually and collectively, would have to approach each of the 82 regular season contests as equally significant and imperative, and that includes a division clinching victory over the Miami Heat. All games being equal, it would have to be, as they said, "Just 1-of-82." Yet, with the vast implications of that "one" game it seemed like much more. With that "one" additional victory, Indiana took a 2-1 regular series lead over their conference rival, built a full 3.0 game lead atop the Eastern Conference playoff standings, ended their two game losing streak, clinched one of the top two seeds, and won the Central Division title.
Even if the Pacers are unwilling to declare their season a crowning success because they merely wrapped-up their division, at the very least, they can and should be pleased about the historical implications of their regular season achievements. The 2013-2014 title will be the sixth time the Pacers have won the Central Division in NBA franchise history, but this is only the second time that the Blue and Gold have clinched their division in consecutive seasons.
When was the first time the Pacers accomplished that feat, you may ask?
It was the 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 seasons. As most long-time Pacers' fans likely remember, after coming up short against the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals, 4-2, in 1999, the Pacers finally took that next step and made it to the NBA Finals in 2000 - defeating none other than the New York Knicks.
Of course, history does not always inform on the future and that past version of the Pacers-Knicks rivalry is not exactly comparable to the current Pacers' battle for Eastern Conference supremacy with the Miami Heat, but it is clear that winning the Central Division for two straight seasons is a testament to this team's commitment to winning and sustained success.
Confetti may not be shot out of cannons, and, as Paul Pierce stated, the Pacers may not be about to "go pop champagne," but as Paul George told Pacers.com's Scott Agness, "It definitely means something. We've been playing great basketball and we've been building off the past two or three years when this team has been assembled. It's great to see we're just handling our business and we're positioned well right now."