Pacers locked into the fifth seed, will open the 2018 Playoffs on the road

Lance Stephenson, Pacers

The Indiana Pacers are in the postseason for the third consecutive season. They’ve surprised every one in the league by winning 48 games, including 21 on the road, and earning the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference for the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

Their playoff seed was settled Monday when the Cleveland Cavaliers (50-31) captured their 50th win in New York and the Central Division title.

Entering their regular-season finale on Tuesday, the Pacers have nothing to play for. They are slotted in fifth and cannot improve their positioning, so that opens up the opportunity for coach Nate McMillan to rest players.

And that is the likely scenario despite having a clean bill of health.

On Monday, they had their first day off at home in 18 days. On Tuesday, they will host the Charlotte Hornets (35-46), who’ve lost five of their last six games and will head on vacation the following day.

The Pacers’ first-round opponent is still to be determined, but they will begin the playoffs this weekend either in Cleveland or Philadelphia.

The red-hot 76ers (50-30) have impressively won their last 14 games. Their last loss was to the Pacers on March 13th. They have two more games left: a back-to-back at Atlanta and home against Milwaukee, which is still fighting for a playoff positioning. At 44-37, the Bucks are currently in sixth.

Meanwhile, Cleveland has one game remaining, at home against New York on Wednesday.

Assuming the Cavaliers win out, the 76ers must win their final two games to secure the No. 3 seed. If they lose one game, they will slide to the fourth seed and host the Pacers in Round 1.

The Pacers were swept in the first round last postseason by the Cavaliers, losing by an average of four points per game. LeBron James’ team — Miami, now Cleveland — has represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals seven consecutive years.

[Photo: Frank McGrath/PS&E]

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