Feel the Rush!
From Conrad Brunner:
From Conrad Brunner:
Q. What is with the talk that the goal is just to get to the playoffs? The way I see it, this team still has the potential to win Reggie his ring. If these guys have the heart, I think they could still shake things up a bit. With Jermaine (O'Neal) expecting to return, and the way the team is currently playing, why not continue to keep the same goal as always? (From Eric in Kokomo, IN)
A. Through all of its trials and tribulations, this team has learned the value of a few traits, and focus is foremost among them. Because the Pacers are so severely shorthanded, they must live the cliché "one game at a time," which is something everybody says but only successful teams understand. It would've been easy, coming off a rousing overtime victory over Miami Friday night, to look past Sunday's game in Washington and ahead to Tuesday night's trip to New York, which will be Reggie Miller's final game in Madison Square Garden.
Instead, the Pacers quickly put the Miami victory behind them and overcome additional adversity (Fred Jones missed the game with what is believed to be a minor back injury) to slow down a high-powered Wizards team that has given them fits this season. If they win in New York, the Pacers would be five games over .500, with six of their final nine games at home. Cleveland plays six of its last 10 on the road. So the stage is set for a strong finish, which could build momentum heading into the postseason.
Which is a rather long-winded way of getting to the point: getting to the playoffs isn't the only goal. It is the first and, frankly, quite noble in and of itself. To get there, however, the team must maintain its focus the task at hand. When the suspensions came down in November, a substantial percentage of fans were convinced the season was heading directly into the tank. Had those same fans known O'Neal and Tinsley would both miss the final month of the regular season with injuries, they would've been even more pessimistic.
But the team has persevered and overcome substantial odds to put itself in position to reach the playoffs. To place an expectation beyond that on the team would be unrealistic and unfair to the players and coaches, because it would diminish the significance of the accomplishment. No one's saying they won't be a tough out, particularly if Tinsley and/or O'Neal return. With or without a long playoff run, however, this team already has proven it has a plethora of heart. And with or without a ring, Reggie Miller has proven he is a champion.