It doesn't sound like a big game to most NBA fans, but to the players and fans of the Pacers and Bobcats, Wednesday night's game is one of the biggest of the season.
Both teams are presently in a heated battle for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers currently own the tie breaker, should it come to that. They would like to pad their lead, of course, and the opportunity to do so sits in front of them right now.
Tonight, the Pacers were able to get a win on the road in a close game with the Nets in New Jersey. Granted, the Nets were without superstar Deron Williams, but a win is a win, and we will take them however we can get them.
The Pacers defeated the New Jersey Nets, 102-98. They have now improved their record to 31-40 on the season.
Roy Hibbert had a great game for Indiana tonight, leading the way with 24 points for the Blue & Gold. Danny Granger added 20 points of his own, while Derron Collison continued to flourish in this new offense. Derron finished with 15 points and 12 assists for Indiana. He also managed to grab six rebounds, a fairly decent number for a point guard.
The Pacers had solid bench play tonight from Brandon Rush, Josh McRoberts, and Dahntay Jones. In all, five players scored in double figures for Indiana.
Which team will get the final playoff spot in the East?
The Nets took 98 shots in this game, yet only shot 39 percent from the floor. The Pacers on the other hand took just 72 attempts, connecting on 35 of them. That is 49 percent shooting, for all of you that don't feel like doing the math.
Indiana also shot the ball well from the free throw line. They were 27 of 30 on the night as a team.
They were able to pull out the win, despite turning the ball over 10 more times than New Jersey. The Pacers trailed by four points after the first and second quarters, then used a big third quarter to give them the lead. New Jersey was able to make it close at the end, but Indiana was able to knock down their free throws and seal the deal.
After tonight's win, the Pacers are now faced with a potentially huge game on Wednesday. They will travel to Charlotte to take on the team they are fighting with for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Bobcats and Pacers are separated by just two games as of tonight. Whichever team can get the victory on Wednesday night will have some momentum going into the home stretch of the regular season.
If Indiana can get that win, it would give them a nice cushion heading into their final ten games of the regular season. Their final ten games look fairly decent, though, when you take a close look at the schedule.
They get seven of those ten games at home, and face only two teams from the Western Conference, in Sacramento and New Orleans. Their road trips aren't really out west either, as they will travel to Detroit, New Orleans, and Orlando. Their last three games are against playoff teams (Hawks, Knicks, Magic), but those teams might be resting up for the playoffs during that time.
They will face the Bucks one more time before the regular season concludes; another team fighting for this final playoff spot in the East. The Bucks are now tied with the Bobcats, and sit two games behind the Pacers.
They have a golden opportunity sitting in front of them right now.
Since the beginning of the season, fans have had real expectations of making the playoffs this year. As we enter the last 11 games of the regular season, they are sitting in a decent position to do so. If they can't find a way to win enough games against the Pistons, Bucks, Kings, and Wizards during these last few weeks, then they don't deserve to make it anyway.
Whether they make the playoffs or not, expect this team to go through some big changes this off-season. The coaches and free agents will likely be gone; so, too, may be many people in the front office.
For now, though, the main focus must be on this big game on Wednesday.
The Bobcats are a team much like the Pacers, in that they can either play very well, or completely stink up the court with their play. Obviously, they have guys that are capable of making big plays like Stephen Jackson and D.J. Augustine. Even though they lost their best player (for virtually nothing in return) in Gerald Wallace last month, this team has continued to play well at times, and surprise a lot of people.
The question is of which Indiana team is going to show up to this game.
At times, guys like Granger, Hibbert, Collison, and Hansbrough have been virtually unstoppable. Unfortunately, sometimes all of these guys play like a division II college team out there. Actually, I probably shouldn't say that; most division II college teams probably play better defense than these Pacers.
The big game in Charlotte will tip off at 7:00pm on Wednesday. This game will have the feel of a playoff game: a feeling that this Pacers team would love to have after the regular season is over.