INDIANAPOLIS — They represent a hospitable Midwestern city that’s fond of greeting strangers with a folksy “hi, ya’ll!” Their coach is friendly and approachable. Actually, the players themselves are really nice guys, quite a contrast from the rough and tumble clowns that engaged in the bloodiest fight in NBA history.
Yep, these Pacers are mighty swell and fun to be around, which is all good. Unless they’re trying to close out a tight game or a playoff series. That’s when being nice guys is all bad.
“You’ve got to be a little angry,” said Danny Granger, Indiana’s leading scorer in the playoffs at 20.5 ppg.
You’ve got to step on the other guy’s throat, and then again just to make sure the body isn’t twitching. Such is the mentality that’s necessary this time of year, when a team is ready to move to the next challenge. The Pacers took a commanding 3-1 lead over the Magic into their house Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, NBA TV), an ideal setting to clinch the best-of-seven first round, although the Pacers’ cut-throat mentality has been anything but against Orlando.
They blew an eight-point lead with three minutes left in Game 1 (which they lost), then saw a 19-point lead evaporate in Game 4. They were able to salvage that game in overtime, but the question persists with this group: are they nasty enough to challenge for a conference title?