Well, the 2020 NBA Playoffs are upon us. With its Disney Bubble premise in full effect, the 16 teams are squaring off to determine this year’s champion. While it’s hard to think that there won’t be an asterisk next to the 2020 title, a champion will be crowned.
The NBA is a fickle beast. Star-driven and tank-friendly, teams in the dumpster one year can be the king of the mountain the next. With that, stakes are high for almost every team as they make their playoff run, with sought-after stars often heading for greener pastures if they feel their squad can’t get over the hump.
We’re looking at each of the NBA playoff contenders and diving into what’s at stake for each team, the odds of making a deep run, and key storylines to watch.
Let’s hit the Indiana Pacers.
Expectations: Coming Up Just Short
This is a matchup of the #4 and #5 seeds, so presumably the result is almost a toss-up. However, most prognosticators have the Heat moving on, though it may not be all that easy to get past the Pacers. They played each other twice in the bubble with each team winning once. Does that foreshadow anything in particular? Doubtful – but this is the 5th time in league history that these two teams have locked horns with these seedings. In the previous 4 matchups, the Heat have come out on top three times.
What’s Working for Them
The Pacers made a good showing in the bubble, going 6-2 and beating teams like the Lakers, 76ers, and Rockets. Despite their injury problems, both early in the season and during play in the bubble, their depth has been an asset. They’ll need to continue that trend if they want to break through to the second round. Aaron Holiday, Justin Holiday, and the rest of the squad will have to bring their “A” game. Time will tell if the momentum built from their solid bubble play will translate into a seven-game series.
What Might Hold Them Back:
How healthy are they, really? Domantas Sabonis, though not ruling out a return to Orlando, is unlikely to feature. There are also questions around how bad T. J. Warren’s plantar fasciitis might be and how that will impact his game. Then, of course, there’s Victor Oladipo‘s quad. If they can all remain healthy, they’ll be quite a handful for Miami.
Storyline to Watch
While the Pacers have been battling injuries on and off all season long, the Heat come into these playoffs healthy – and deep. Given the fireworks earlier in the season, the matchup of Jimmy Butler and T. J. Warren will certainly be one everyone will have eyes on. Malcolm Brogdon could be a difference-maker in this series if he can elevate his game. If he, Turner, Oladipo, and Warren can get into a rhythm, this series may be closer than people think.
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