Their moment of truth is past. The first one, anyway. The Indiana Pacers say the trial by fire of the past fortnight was a necessary reawakening.
We’ll see what it meant, soon enough.
The Atlanta Who?
As redemptive and important as Saturday’s Game 7 was for the Pacers, it now is as ancient history as the War of 1812. This is the way it must be when the NBA playoffs are at full grind; quick turnarounds, and short memories.
The Hawks are gone, but here comes another potential troublemaker. The Washington Wizards just blew through Chicago like a gale off Lake Michigan, disposing of the Bulls in five games and going 3-0 in the United Center. What the Pacers would not want to do now is drop the series opener (again), lose home court advantage (again), and quickly be going uphill (again).
So Roy Hibbert has no time to revel about showing that, contrary to popular opinion, he didn’t deserve to be farther down the bench than Boomer.
And Frank Vogel has no time to savor the end of speculation that a first round loss would get his name removed from his office door.
And the Pacers in general have no time to relish quieting those who said their body language made them look like dead men walking.
“There’s no time to even celebrate or be happy about moving on to the next round,” Paul George was saying after Sunday’s practice. “The next round is here.”
The Wizards arrive with a hot hand and cold playoff history. They haven’t won a second-round game in 32 years. That was 1982. The year before that, a sophomore guard named Randy Wittman scored 16 points in the national championship game for Indiana University.
Now he’s the Wizards’ coach. So the Pacers are facing another native son, though at least this one won’t be driving the lane against them, like Jeff Teague just did.