2012 NBA Playoffs: Will the 76ers Play the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals?

2012 NBA Playoffs: Are We Headed for the Worst Eastern Conference Finals Ever?

5/17/12 in NBA   |   Presslp   |   9 respect

April 21, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers power forward David West (21) snags the ball away from Philadelphia 76ers forward Thaddeus Young (21) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Philadelphia defeated Indiana 109-106. Mandatory credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE

Before the Philadelphia 76ers were blown out at home 107-91 by the Boston Celtics Wednesday night, the 2012 NBA Playoffs found its Eastern Conference matchups in an interesting position.
 
Prior to Wednesday’s lopsided win, the Indiana Pacers had brought the Eastern Conference Semifinals into a four-way tie with their 78-75 victory over the Miami Heat down in South Beach on Tuesday. What’s more, both the 76ers and Pacers had stolen home court advantage from their favored opponents, making their paths to the Conference Finals a far more likely scenario.
 
And while their offensive ineptitude cropped up once again in Game 3, the 76ers may have the luxury of going back to Beantown with the series tied 2-2, provided they can go into their next bout with the Celtics playing the same basketball they were playing in their first two meetings.
 
What is most interesting about these playoff matchups, though, is the prospect of both the eighth seeded 76ers and third seeded Pacers advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
 
Since 1984, when the NBA converted to the current 16-team playoff format, seven third seeded teams have reached the NBA Finals, only two of which have been from the Eastern Conference. Of those seven teams, four have actually gone on to win the championship, the only Eastern Conference representative being the 2004 Detroit Pistons.
 
In short, the Pacers can become only the third Eastern Conference third seed to advance to the Finals.
 
Meanwhile, though the Celtics are seeded even lower than the Pacers at the fourth seed, the more interesting prospect is this 76ers team, which has the chance to become only the second eighth seed to ever reach the Conference Finals (the New York Knicks did it in 1999, and later became the only eighth seed to make to the next round, where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs).
 
The 76ers and the Pacers, then, have the chance to make history and be the first Eastern Conference Finals shared by a third and eighth seed.
 
That potential matchup, however, raises some equally interesting questions. For example, in their win Tuesday night, the Pacers also went through an absolutely terrible shooting stretch spanning the second and third quarters (five for 29, or 17%), reaffirming the notion that their team relies on defense, grit, and effort in order to sustain wins.
 
Pair this with the 76ers equally lousy and periodically nonexistent offense, the Eastern Conference Finals may be a very long—and painful—series to watch.
 
To make the matchup even less enticing (from not only an entertainment standpoint, but also one of business) neither team has a marketable superstar to sell the public on. Will fans really flock to their televisions to see if Andre Iguodala can win his first NBA title? Or Danny Granger? Would anyone want to watch a series with teams that haven’t even been able to average 90 points per game in the playoffs?

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this matchup—outside of the arbitrary third/eighth seed thing—is that it is so very uninteresting. There is virtually nothing compelling about either team outside of their respective fan bases. It would be far more entertaining (and profitable) to see a series between two teams with equally pressing claims for a Finals berth like, say, the Heat and Celtics. Will LeBron James finally get his ring? Will the Big 3 in Boston be able to squeeze one more championship out of their old, battered bodies?

April 10, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett (5) and Miami Heat power forward Chris Bosh (1) at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
 
Now, let it be said that I normally have a strong aversion to conspiracy theory, but this would be a perfect opportunity for David Stern and the league to pull something funky a la the Game 6 debacle from the 2002 Los Angeles Lakers/Sacramento Kings matchup. I’m certainly not crying foul (terrible pun not intended) about the officiating so far (even if many thought refereeing in Game 1 of the Pacers/Heat series was shaky), but I also would not be surprised if we saw some more questionable calls lean towards the more popular franchises, especially if one series looks like a definite upset. If you’re Stern, why not at least try to salvage half the Eastern Conference and have the Celtics or Heat push through to the Finals?
 
And what if the San Antonio Spurs, one of the most under-watched and under-appreciated franchises in the NBA, also slip into the Finals? The NBA would lose even more money with a Spurs/76ers or Spurs/Pacers Finals.

Again, while I generally don’t believe in fixed or influenced games—especially after Tim Donaghy—the NBA is an entertainment business after all. And if you’re the NBA, and you have the potential to lose millions of dollars because of the wrong matchup, don’t you do whatever possible to keep it from happening?
 
Whatever the case may be once the Conference Finals come about, these semifinals will be interesting to watch not just because the underdogs have a chance. It will also be interesting to see, if those upsets really have the potential to become reality, if the league would even take that risk in the first place.
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5/19/12   |   Presslp   |   9 respect

DERYKE wrote:
I am not for sure why it would surprise any body if the Pacers beat the Heat? I would to have 10 good players rather 2 superstars my self reason why if you can control the super stars the rest of the Heats team ? If you have 10 players who you can send in and out by not loosing a thing young good players who play to win no egos here GO PACERS!!! If the Pacers can beat the Heat i feel that they can win it all..GO PACERS!!

Thanks for the read, Deryke.

As for the Pacers beating the Heat, I think it'd be surprising for people mainly because they're so bad on the offensive end. Like I said, they average BELOW 90 ppg for the playoffs (actually, I think the number is closer to 82 ppg, which is awful). Also, they have no go to superstar. You'd think Danny Granger would be "the guy," given he's got seniority on this team and was tehre before everyone else, but he doesn't play like it.

However, the Heat now have the same issue because Bosh is out. I think he made far more of a difference on that team than people give him credit for. Sure, he doesn't play like a legitimate PF should, but he was able to stretch the floor with his automatic jumpers. And with Wade playing in ultra-diva mode, James is the only one playing good basketball.

5/19/12   |   Presslp   |   9 respect

Pat wrote:
Game 4 makes me look stupid, but I still stand by it. The Celtics aren't losing this series. (says the Boston homer)

Haha it's okay, Pat, I was afraid of the same thing on my end when the Celtics were up 16 at one point. I couldn't believe they let that one go. On to Game 5!

5/19/12   |   DERYKE   |   1204 respect

I am not for sure why it would surprise any body if the Pacers beat the Heat? I would to have 10 good players rather 2 superstars my self reason why if you can control the super stars the rest of the Heats team ? If you have 10 players who you can send in and out by not loosing a thing young good players who play to win no egos here GO PACERS!!! If the Pacers can beat the Heat i feel that they can win it all..GO PACERS!!

5/19/12   |   Pat   |   5229 respect

Game 4 makes me look stupid, but I still stand by it. The Celtics aren't losing this series. (says the Boston homer)

5/17/12   |   Presslp   |   9 respect

Pat wrote:
Uh, no. Before game 3 of the Celtics-Sixers series, I would have perhaps conceded the possibility. But the Celtics can destroy Philly whenever they feel like it. I'll be shocked if that series even makes it to game 6.

Appreciate the read, Pat.

What about how close the first game was? This series could have easily been 2-0 in Philly's favor leaving Beantown. While I agree Boston is still clearly the favorite--and the case is strengthened by their dominance last night--nothing is certain in this series. You're talking about the evidence of one game vs. the evidence of the previous two.

If the 76ers get blown out again in Game 4, I'll give it to you that this article is somewhat misguided (though again, I never once said Philly was favored, just that the possibility of them upsetting was there). But if they go back to Beantown 2-2......well then brace yourself for a possibly sucky ECF.

5/17/12   |   Pat   |   5229 respect

Uh, no. Before game 3 of the Celtics-Sixers series, I would have perhaps conceded the possibility. But the Celtics can destroy Philly whenever they feel like it. I'll be shocked if that series even makes it to game 6.