Pacers frustrated by close losses but see value in playoff run

INDIANAPOLIS — Myles Turner, the Indiana Pacers center and the team’s longest-serving player, couldn’t help but feel a mix of emotions following the conclusion of the Eastern Conference finals.

On one hand, Turner acknowledged the incredible journey the Pacers had embarked on this season. After failing to make the playoffs for the past three years, Indiana not only secured their first playoff series win in over a decade but also made it to the conference finals for the first time since 2014.

However, the bitter reality of the situation still lingered for Turner and his teammates as they walked out of the arena on Monday night, having suffered a heartbreaking loss in Game 4 to the Boston Celtics, resulting in a series sweep. Despite holding fourth-quarter leads in three of their four losses, the Pacers couldn’t hold on, leaving them frustrated and disappointed.

“It’s still fresh in our minds,” Turner expressed. “It’s incredibly frustrating to have those games within our grasp and let them slip away.”
Despite playing without star guard Tyrese Haliburton due to a left hamstring injury, the Indiana Pacers did not make excuses for his absence. They recognized the opportunity to win multiple games in the series.

According to research from ESPN Stats & Information, the Pacers had a win probability of at least 90% in the fourth quarter of Games 1, 3, and 4. Surprisingly, they ended up losing all three games.

In Game 1, they held a 117-114 lead with the ball and only 9 seconds remaining. In Game 3, they were ahead 109-101 with just 2 minutes and 25 seconds left on their home court. Even in Game 4, they maintained a 98-90 advantage with 5 minutes and 40 seconds remaining, but failed to score for the final 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

“This playoff experience is invaluable for a young team like us,” said Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard, who contributed a team-high 24 points. “We encountered a lot of firsts and realized the little things we could have done better. We learned what it feels like to be in a series.”
Although the Pacers had a roster filled with players experiencing their first playoff run, such as Nembhard, Haliburton, and Aaron Nesmith, veteran forward Pascal Siakam, who had previously won a championship with the Toronto Raptors in 2019, stressed that it is not guaranteed that Indiana will have this opportunity again.

“I can confidently say that we will learn from this experience, but we cannot take it for granted,” Siakam stated. “I understand how difficult it is to reach this stage. It’s unfortunate. We must give credit to the opposing team because they capitalized on every mistake we made. They performed admirably.”

“However, for us, it has been a challenging journey, filled with heart-wrenching losses. While we can draw encouragement from these experiences and strive to improve, we must recognize that we need to significantly elevate our game in order to compete with these teams. Regardless of how well we played, we simply didn’t get the job done.”
Siakam, who is set to become a free agent this summer following his trade to Indiana, chose not to discuss his future plans but expressed gratitude for the support he received during his time with the team.

“It’s been a true blessing,” Siakam stated. “I’m incredibly thankful for everything. Considering where I come from, it means a great deal to me.”

Indiana emerged as a standout team in the league, making an impressive run to the In-Season Tournament Finals in early December. They achieved 47 victories and secured the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. Additionally, Haliburton’s outstanding performance earned him a spot as an All-Star starter and a place on the All-NBA third team.

During the playoffs, the Pacers defied expectations by defeating higher-seeded teams in two series. They triumphed over the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round and then overcame the New York Knicks in the conference semifinals.
The Pacers were fortunate with some injuries along the way, as they faced the Milwaukee Bucks without Giannis Antetokounmpo. On the other hand, the Knicks had to deal with injuries to Jalen Brunson, OG Anunoby, and Josh Hart during the second-round series.

However, the Pacers also had to face their own injury concerns in the conference finals. Tyrese Haliburton re-aggravated a left hamstring injury in Game 2, which ruled him out for the rest of the series. Haliburton had been performing exceptionally well in the playoffs, averaging 18.7 points and 8.2 assists in his first 15 games.

“Ty never let anything get to him,” said Turner. “No matter what challenges came his way, he always found a solution.”

Unfortunately, the Pacers couldn’t overcome the absence of their star player. Despite their disappointment, the Pacers players reflected on how much they had achieved in a short amount of time.
Pacers forward Obi Toppin expressed his team’s growth and unity throughout the year. He acknowledged the dedication and effort that each teammate poured into the organization on a daily basis. Although the season did not conclude as they had hoped, Toppin emphasized the positive aspects that emerged from the year. He emphasized the significance of the year for the Pacers and the organization as a whole, emphasizing the importance of not overlooking their accomplishments.