The Whiteboard: Reports of the Indiana Pacers demise have been greatly exaggerated

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It would’ve been more than fair for impartial NBA observers to assume the Indiana Pacers would no longer be all that relevant in the Eastern Conference after losing Victor Oladipo for presumably the rest of the season back on January 23. Hell, some NBA folks didn’t think Indiana was that relevant even with Oladipo.

Anybody writing off the Pacers would’ve felt good about their prediction soon after Dipo went down. Although Indiana rallied and beat the Toronto Raptors without their star shooting guard, the Pacers dropped their next four consecutive games. Three of the four losses came against bad teams: Memphis, Orlando, and Washington. Oh well, not a bad run, time to prepare for next year.

Except then, all of a sudden, the Pacers started winning. And since they started, they haven’t stopped. Indiana is currently sitting at six consecutive wins with a big game against Milwaukee separating the Pacers from the All-Star break. Win or lose that game and Indiana will still hold the third seed heading into the break.

None of the teams the Pacers have beaten in this stretch have been world-beaters, but six wins is not easy in the NBA against anybody. It certainly isn’t easy for a team without its best player. The Pacers were down, but they’re not yet out. To anybody familiar with the franchise, that shouldn’t be surprising.

The Indiana Pacers are not big fans of tanking. This season marks 30 years since the last time a Pacers team won less than 32 games. Since the 1993-94 season, Indiana has more seasons resulting in a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals (8) than seasons where the Pacers missed out on the postseason (6).

The Pacers don’t give up. Even if the top end talent isn’t there for Indiana to make a Finals run now, the Pacers deserve a ton of credit for sticking with this season. So does Indiana coach Nate McMillan, who should be up there with Mike Budenholzer, Nick Nurse, and probably Billy Donovan and Michael Malone for Coach of the Year consideration.

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