The Indiana Pacers will host the New York Knicks on Sunday night at Conseco Fieldhouse, their last home game of the regular season. Fortunately for everyone involved, there will be more games played there before the NBA season concludes.
The Pacers and Bulls are locked into their respective seeds in the East, and will prepare to do battle after their four-game season series went to the Bulls, 3-1.
It could very well have been a sweep for the Bulls, who lost the last game as they played without big man Carlos Boozer. They handled the Pacers with relative ease in the other three games.
After their game on Sunday with the Knicks, the Pacers will head to Orlando to wrap up the regular season against the Magic on Wednesday night. They have won two games in a row, and if they can finish the season on a four-game winning streak, it could do wonders for them heading into the postseason.
This is a young team, so it will go one of two ways: They will either be shell-shocked and get throttled in four straight games; or they will play like they have nothing to lose, and will come out with confidence and steal a game or two.
While it is unlikely that they will win two games in this series, I think it could be closer than people think.
Indiana will have Monday and Tuesday off before their meaningless game against the Magic. They will then have a few days off before the playoffs begin, giving them plenty of time to prepare for a team they know very well.
These two Central Division rivals have had some memorable playoff series with Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller, but this one will be much different.
While Derrick Rose will probably win the MVP, his game is nothing like Jordan's. That being said, he is one of the most difficult guys to defend in the league. He could easily drop 40 points and 10 assists on you before you even realize it.
The Pacers really have nobody like Reggie, let alone a true star on this team. This young, collective group of guys will have to work well together to have a chance at winning a game in this first-round matchup.
The best scenario I can see for the Pacers is if they come home down 2-0, maybe the Bulls won't have that sense of urgency to put the hammer down and end the series early.
The worst thing for them would be to sweep the Pacers, then have to wait a hand full of games while the other series finish up. The whole rest vs. rust debate never gets old.
While most teams in the playoffs are focused on winning games and eventually their first-round series matchup, the Pacers should just be focused on playing solid basketball on both ends of the floor.
The young players need to get a feel for what playoff basketball is like in the NBA. Besides Jeff Foster, Danny Granger is the only player on the entire roster with any playoff experience, and that was just six games in the first round of the 2006 series against the Nets.
Improving over these final two regular season games will really set them up for what awaits at the United Center. Sunday's game at Conseco Fieldhouse against the Knicks is Fan Appreciation Night. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
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