Pacers eager to get fresh start in playoffs

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 19, 2013
(Eds: With AP Photos.) By MICHAEL MAROT AP Sports Writer The Indiana Pacers can finally focus on what everybody else has been talking about all season - winning playoff games. Less than 24 hours after finishing the regular season with a loss to Philadelphia, the Pacers returned to practice to prepare for Sunday's opening game against Atlanta. It's about time. ''You know what we did in the regular season, and we accomplished a lot. We're not happy with how we ended it, but this is great thing for us,'' All-Star Paul George said, referring to the grinding six-month schedule that has set them up to make a postseason run. ''We choose our own fate, it's in our hands now.'' The Pacers (49-32) couldn't ask for anything else. Despite closing the season with five losses in six games and blowing a chance to earn the No. 2 seed behind Miami, Indiana still has home-court advantage in the first round for a second straight season. If the Pacers win the best-of-seven series against the Hawks, they'll face either New York or Boston in the second round and avoid the dreaded conference semifinal rematch with the defending champion Heat. Should the Pacers get past the second round, they would be playing in the conference finals for the first time since 2003-04 -- and the first time in their NBA history without Reggie Miller. That's exactly what the Pacers envisioned when they paid top dollar to re-sign restricted free agents Roy Hibbert and George Hill last summer. The two moves allowed them to keep the core group together to make another postseason run. What they didn't expect was to do that without Danny Granger, a former All-Star who led the Pacers in scoring each of the five previous seasons, but missed all but five games with a left knee injury. Granger's absence led to a slow start and may have contributed to the late-season fatigue of Indiana's starters, but the Pacers refused to let it derail their plans. And now the Hawks (44-38) will face a playoff-tested foe that has four starters from last season's first-round playoff win - George, Hill, Hibbert and David West. The lone newcomer in the lineup is guard Lance Stephenson, Granger's replacement. He played a total of 12 minutes in four playoff games last year, and this time, Stephenson knows he'll need to be a key contributor after averaging 8.8 points and 3.9 rebounds, both career highs. Stephenson said Thursday he and his teammates can't wait to get started. ''It's playoff time,'' he said. ''The season is over and we've just got to stay sharp on offense and defense.'' The Pacers will make some adjustments against an opponent that it went 2-2 against this season. For starters, Pacers coach Frank Vogel acknowledged after practice that he has a general idea of what he plans to do with his rotations. He did not divulge specifics. Vogel knows this much: If the Pacers hope to achieve their postseason goals, his team can't wait to improve. It's a message that has resonated with players. ''We've lost games because we didn't play the right way,'' Hibbert said. ''We've got to do better. It's the playoffs now.''
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Colts QB coach: Andrew Luck should not be double-digit INT guy

Jim Kelly praises Sean McDermott, throws shade at Rex Ryan

Did John Paxson just admit the Bulls are tanking?

Report: Celtics trying to add both George and Hayward

Report: Carmelo Anthony may be open to trade to Wizards, Sixers

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Roadblock to Kirk Cousins-Redskins deal isn't money

Taco Charlton finally lands taco endorsement deal

Serena Williams told John McEnroe to back off after he said she’d be No. 700 in the men’s rankings

Vince Young blasts Jeff Fisher, vows to ‘expose’ him

Committed Cam Newton: 'I know I need to be better'

WWE comments on LaMelo Ball using racial slur during ‘Raw’

The 'Power hitters are coming for that number one spot' quiz

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Ricky Davis takes unnecessary shots at Al Harrington

Who won Wimbledon the year you were born?

Box Score 6/27: Monday is for all sorts of ballers

Big3 brings summer festival feel to basketball with barnstorming tour

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'Tonight, we settle the Beard vs. Brodie debate' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The 8th Man Award for most overlooked player this year

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Disappearing Act Award for player who came up small

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Ricky Davis takes unnecessary shots at Al Harrington

The 'Power hitters are coming for that number one spot' quiz

Big3 brings summer festival feel to basketball with barnstorming tour

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

The 'Tonight, we settle the Beard vs. Brodie debate' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The 8th Man Award for most overlooked player this year

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Disappearing Act Award for player who came up small

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker