Pacers clinch 7-seed in playoffs, face Cavs in Round 1

Pacers have clinched a spot in the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

It took until the final day of the regular season, but the Indiana Pacers secured a spot in the 2017 NBA Playoffs Wednesday evening. They clinched a second consecutive playoff berth by winning their last five games, capped off by a 104-86 victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks (43-39) rested all five starters after locking in the five spot Tuesday by crushing the Charlotte Hornets by 27 points.

[VIDEO: Paul George and Lance Stephenson on making the playoffs, facing Cleveland]

The Pacers (42-40) finish the regular season seventh in the Eastern Conference and will face second-seeded Cleveland in the first round … just like old times. Brad Stevens’ Celtics are the top seed in the East.

The Cavaliers’ last win came against the Pacers in double overtime on Apr. 2. They lost their last four games of the season; LeBron James and Kyrie Irving sat out the final two games.

The 2017 NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday, April 15 with the Pacers and Cavaliers getting it all started at 3:00 pm ET. The Pacers lost three of four meetings this season, with their lone win back on Nov. 16 in Indy by ten points — and when James rested.

Qualifying for the postseason is always a goal for the franchise, and it is also a positive step in its quest to sign four-time All-Star Paul George to another contract extension this summer. The most important thing for George, who is in the prime of his career, is to be part of a winning culture. George turns 27 on May 2.

See Also: Paul George hopeful to be voted on All-NBA team

It’s also Nate McMillan’s first year as Pacers head coach so it was important for him, too, to ensure Indiana remained a playoff team.

Bringing back Lance Stephenson has given this team life, and the jolt they desperately needed over the final two weeks of the regular season. The Pacers have gone 5-1 since re-signing Stephenson.

The Pacers have been a model of consistency as a franchise, participating in postseason competition in six of seven seasons since drafting Paul George 10th overall in 2010. The only season they did not quality, 2014-15, was primarily due to George sidelined for 76 games after suffering a compound left fracture with USA Basketball. They came up short in Game 82 in Memphis that year, just missing out on the eight seed.

Since 1989, the Pacers have been a playoff team in 22 of the last 28 seasons.

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