Sports Column

Pacers bring playoff basketball back to Indy


For the first time since 2019, there will be playoff basketball in Indianapolis. And after the Pacers won game two in Milwaukee on Tuesday night to tie the series, the stage is set for a wild weekend at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

“I’m expecting it to be unbelievable,” said Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton. “I mean, we’ve had regular season crowds better than what we’ve played in these last two games. We expect a great crowd. A lot of people are excited about what’s to come in the series and just the energy in the city right now. We’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

Because of the in-season tournament and other big moments, this season gave us a small glimpse of those electric crowds at the Fieldhouse. And now, it’s time to bring back the gold shirts, the deafening chants of “DE-FENSE,” and the sheer emotion of every play that we’ve missed over the last several years. The best-of-seven series between Indiana and Milwaukee is tied 1-1, and the Pacers will host the Bucks for Games three and four. Game three is Friday night at 5:30, while Game 4 will be Sunday evening.

The Pacers were “embarrassed” and ran out of the gym in Game 1, and fans began to wonder if the lack of experience would be Indy’s downfall, or if it was simply just one game in a long series. As we’ve seen all season long, the Pacers responded to the moment and came away with an impressive Game two victory.

Pascal Siakam continued to prove he was worth the trade, worth the hype, and will ultimately be worth the money it will take for the Pacers to keep him around this summer. After his 36 point, 13 rebound performance in the first game, he followed that up with 37 points and 11 rebounds on Tuesday. There’s only been one other Pacer in history to score 35+ points in consecutive playoffs games. You probably recognize the name- Reggie Miller.  Siakam also became just the fifth player in NBA history to have 35+ points, 10+ rebounds, while shooting 60%+ in back to back games.

“He just doesn’t get rattled,” said Head Coach Rick Carlisle. ”He plays the game at his pace. I thought defensively tonight, he was excellent. He’s a unique player. His experience shows and he had a lot of big plays for us tonight.”

“I just was taking what’s out there,” Siakam said. “I don’t feel like I’m trying anything or forcing anything. Just playing within the flow of the offense. Just not thinking about anything and taking whatever is there.”

As the scene shifts to Indianapolis, the question remains: Will Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo play at all in this series or not? His strained calf is a tricky injury to come back from, and it can lead to more severe problems with the achilles if it’s not healed. The Bucks may need the “Greek Freak” if they want to beat the run-and-gun Pacers, but they’re still unsure about his availability. With or without Antetokounmpo, the Pacers feel like they can win their first playoff series in 10 years. They didn’t overreact after the Game 1 loss, and now they can’t overreact to the Game 2 win. Rick Carlisle said the Pacers need to “keep their edge,” and not assume these next few games will be easy simply because they’ll be at home.

One day at a time. One game at a time. The Pacers are finally in this position again for meaningful games in their building. The next chapter unfolds Friday night. Welcome back, playoff basketball. We’ve missed you.

Tyler Smith covers the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Hoosiers for IndySportsLegends and is a frequent contributor to the Journal Review. He is also the youth and sports pastor at New Hope Christian Church.