Jeff Van Gundy still thinks the Pacers are the favorites to win the East. Reggie Miller isn’t sure they’ll make it to the conference finals. Kenny Smith wouldn’t be surprised if they lose in the first round.
And so the uncertainty of just what should be expected from these Pacers in a postseason run that begins Saturday night against Atlanta in Bankers Life Fieldhouse isn’t just a local phenomenon.
What follows are a cross-section of opinions of the Pacers from a wide variety of network television analysts.
>> Van Gundy (ESPN) on the Pacers: “People are going overboard the other way on Indiana right now. I think Indiana went through a real struggle but will be getting a new start, a fresh start, and I think they’re going to be a very difficult out.
If I had to pick a team to come out of the East right now, an easier road, I would still say Indiana would be my pick to come out of the Eastern Conference.”
>> Van Gundy on why he chose Indiana over Miami: “I think Indiana’s very good. They’re somewhere between their incredible start and their poor finish and I do believe homecourt will be important and I think that’s why if you had to favor somebody I would favor Indiana.”
>> Miller (TNT) on why he believes the Eastern Conference playoffs could produce some surprises: “Everybody thinks it’s a foregone conclusion that it’s going to be the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals and obviously they’ve been the two best teams throughout the whole 82-game schedule but the way the two have finished the last month, month-and-a-half, there’s not a foregone conclusion. If I’m three through eight, I’ve got to somewhat like my chances.”
>> Chris Webber (NBA TV) on the state of the Pacers: “I think the Pacers have been trying to get their mojo back for a while. I still think they are one of the most talented teams in the playoffs and I wouldn’t be surprised if they came out of the East. They’ve been very fragile in the area of either chemistry or faith in themselves. From experience, that’s not something you want to experience this late in the year. You want to know who you are before the playoffs.”
>> Webber on what to expect from Indiana: “We all know they’ve taken the Heat to Game 7 and that’s great but this year they have a better record and they’re favored, how is it going to be? … I think if they get back to playing who they were, remember kind of who they are and have that feeling and that chemistry of the first half of the season, it’s going to be some fun times for them. If they’re in the midst of trying to find out who they are again or work some things out, now is not the time to do it because no one’s entitled to a championship.”
>> Miller on Paul George needing to establish himself in the playoffs: “Come playoff time, when the possessions are shortened, this is my one concern: who is the man? We know on paper, and we know from all the commercials who people talk about: it’s Paul George. Who’s going to be the guy, when the game is tied, on the line or you’re down one, who’s going to make that big play? They’ve done it by committee, which is great, but you’ve got to have a closer. You’ve got to have a closer come playoff time and it should be Paul George. That’s what I want to see.”
>> Dennis Scott (NBA TV) on George: “I asked him, did your performance last year in the Eastern Conference Finals and early in the season being talked MVP, did that throw you out of your game? He admitted that he was pressing, trying too hard, trying to do too much and he said now it’s time to get back to being who I was and getting this team going back to the way we had it which was moving the basketball and playing team defense. That’s what they’ve gotten away from since the All-Star break, that good Pacer defense where they lock people down.”
>> Kenny Smith (TNT) on Roy Hibbert: “Roy Hibbert doesn’t dominate the center position … as a (center) he has to come out, establish (himself) and demand the basketball. If the Hawks go to a small lineup and Indiana tries to match up, the Hawks have a good chance.”
>> Shaquille O’Neal (TNT) on Hibbert: “Roy has to get the ball to be effective. He has to demand the ball. Sometimes it seems like he doesn’t want the ball. He’s fine with not getting the ball, but he has to demand it.”
>> Miller on Lance Stephenson: “Obviously he’s paying for a big payday contract next season and what better way to go into a negotiation than by telling people, ‘Look, I led the league in triple-doubles.’ They’ve got a young talent on their hands in Lance Stephenson. I’ve always told people to win championships you’ve got to have a little bit of crazy on your team and Lance Stephenson is a little bit crazy. You don’t know what you’re going to get but sometimes you need that.”
>> O’Neal on the Pacers-Hawks matchup: “You can’t take the Atlanta Hawks lightly. The Pacers are a No. 1 seed but they aren’t playing like it. If they take them lightly, it might be a longer series than we expect.”
>> Brent Barry (TNT) on the state of the team: “The Pacers are starting off the playoffs playing against two teams – they are playing against Atlanta and they are playing against themselves. They have not found their identity in the last month of the season.”