West Sees Conference Finals for Pacers
Two years ago, the Indiana Pacers gave the Chicago Bulls all they could handle in a first-round series loss, then did the same thing last postseason in a hard-fought Eastern Conference Semifinals defeat at the hands of the Miami HEAT. Based on that progression, Indiana seems due for a trip to the Conference Finals.
“We felt like we should make [the Conference Finals], but it’s one thing to have a feeling about something, and it’s something else entirely to go out there and do it,” West said. “Obviously, you’ve got to handle your business in order to get there, but we’re trying to be professional about where we are.”
One game into the series, that professionalism appears to be what is separating the Pacers and the Atlanta Hawks, and it could be the difference in the series. While the Hawks griped about no-calls, the Pacers hustled for every loose ball and played the kind of physical basketball necessary to win in the postseason. The fact that they know to do that is a huge advantage for Indiana in these playoffs.
“We have a group that went through this last year, so even though we’re young, we’ve got guys that have been through the playoffs,” West said. “They may not have played a lot of minutes, but we’re just doing what we’ve been doing all throughout the year. Obviously the intensity is going to be up, and we’re playing the same team several times over the course of a series, so they’ll learn us and get our tendencies down, but I think we’re ready to execute. We’re just maintaining where we’ve been at, and we’re ready to win.”
After Game 1 they certainly look ready, but they also looked ready before the game. While Atlanta was stiff and anxious in the hour leading up to tip-off, the Pacers were considerably calmer—something that likely comes from more years of chemistry and playoff experience.
“We’ve got a good group of guys. Very light, guys are loose, down to earth,” West said. “I don’t think we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves to say that now the playoffs are here, so let’s change who we are. We’re not that team. We understand this is another phase. Not every team earned the right to get here, so we just want to continue to play the right way and stay in (the playoffs).”
If they continue to play the way they played in their first postseason outing this year, they could stay alive for a quite a while, making that goal of a Conference Finals appearance as realistic as it has been in years.
“We’ve been here already. We’ve been through this,” West said. “We’ve just got to focus on that next game.”