Somewhere out there in the city of Indianapolis, Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel is wide awake. Be it morning, afternoon, or late at night, it's just what happens to those fortunate enough to be one of the final sixteen teams still playing basketball in the later part of April.
"I probably won't sleep a wink tonight," said Vogel with a smile across his face. "I'm so excited. I have been peeking a little bit against Orlando, and I'm just excited to bury myself in the film footage and dial in their tendencies to see what we need to do to beat that basketball team. I'm very much looking forward to it."
After the 92-87 season finale loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, the Pacers (42-24) watched the Orlando Magic (37-28) clinch the sixth seed of the Eastern Conference with a 102-95 victory over the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. With the victory, the Magic are now set to play the Pacers on either Saturday or Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which has yet to be announced by the NBA.
Orlando won the season series against Indiana by the tally of 3-1, with the most recent being an Orlando 107-94 victory at home. Dwight Howard led all scorers in that game with 30 points, but the Magic will be without their key superstar throughout the post-season due to a back injury.
Pacers All-Star Roy Hibbert is ready for the challenge the Magic will bring despite their lead player, and is excited for the chance to get out of the first round after losing 4-1 in the opening series to Chicago last season.
"I'm just going in still with the same mind-set of defending, getting rebounds, and playing hard," said Hibbert. "So whatever happens, happens. Dwight is a good player, but I'm sure they will have other skilled-weapons who are big guys as well."
David West, who has come on strongly for the Pacers down the stretch of the season, believes the next couple off-days will be very critical to Indiana's first-round success.
"I think preparation for us is the biggest thing," said West, who finished the season averaging 12.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in his first year as a Pacer. "We have to learn guys tendencies because it is a different situation than you are used to during the regular season. Instead of shuffling teams in and out, we are going to have a consistent opponent over the next couple weeks. We just have to be prepared to play well."
And despite the loss on Wednesday night to enter the Playoffs, the Pacers seemed very pleased with how their season ended. Starting point-guard George Hill was brought over from the highly-successful San Antonio Spurs in the off-season to help give the leadership and experience the team had lacked before, and is very happy with how far the team has come over the past calendar year to get to this opportunity.
"I think you have to first congratulate our team from going to the playoffs in as an eighth-seed, barely making it in as an eighth-seed, to a three-seed and being one of the top teams in the NBA," said Hill.
"So you have to tip your hat to this Indiana team, the front office, but just knowing that the journey isn't over. We always say that this isn't a sprint, it's a marathon, and the last team standing is the best team. So we feel like we can be the best team, and we are going to take one game at a time."
Indiana ready to prepare for Orlando
The third-seeded Indiana Pacers will face-off against the sixth-seed Orlando Magic in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs.
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