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Pacers Simulating The Playoff Experience

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

April 6, 2011

( Getty Images)

Share If you're talking college basketball, the Pacers' roster is loaded with postseason veterans. Seven players reached the Final Four at least once with three (Mike Dunleavy with Duke in 2001), Brandon Rush (Kansas 2008) and Tyler Hansbrough (2009) winning the NCAA title.

In terms of the NBA, however, most of the playoff experience has been largely simulated, albeit successful.

With the magic number down to two, the Pacers could clinch their first playoff berth since 2006 tonight with a victory over the Washington Wizards in Conseco Fieldhouse coupled with a loss by Charlotte to Orlando.

This will be just one of several games interim coach Frank Vogel has used as simulators to give his players a taste of what awaits in the playoffs.

"I'm just enjoying the opportunity," Vogel said. "There's high stakes on every game and it sharpens your preparation, sharpens how much you think about the game when you're away from the basketball court.

"It's all about preparation. The more prepared you are, the more you study the opponent, the more you prepare your game plan, the sharper you are with all that, the better off you're going to be as a coach."

In recent weeks, the Pacers have had several games with playoff-like intensity. They beat Chicago, their likely first-round opponent, 115-108 in overtime on March 18, and recently knocked off Boston, the most playoff savvy team in the East, 107-100 on March 28.

They traveled to Charlotte on March 23 and put a serious dent in the Bobcats' postseason hopes with a 111-88 thrashing. In another matchup with a team chasing them, the Pacers knocked off Milwaukee 89-88 this past Friday in Conseco Fieldhouse, effectively eliminating the Bucks.

Though the Pacers do have 174 games of playoff experience on the roster, most rest with players not in the rotation. Danny Granger is the only starter to experience the postseason, playing six games in 2006. Backup Jeff Foster has played in 48 playoff games with the Pacers.

Vogel has opted to stick with young players including Paul George, Tyler Hansbrough, Brandon Rush, Josh McRoberts and A.J. Price down the stretch. Veterans including James Posey, who has two championship rings, and Dahntay Jones, who started all 16 games in Denver's run to the Western Conference Finals in 2009.

"Since I took over, I've had the mindset we're going to build with our young guys," Vogel said.

"It's a youth movement and we're rolling with them. I feel like they're talented enough that they give us the best chance to win.

"I'm not playing the young guys and sacrificing a chance to win. I believe in these young guys. I believe in the future of this franchise and staying with the young guys during this stretch and into the playoffs is what I'm going to do."