Pacers packed for the week, hope recent strong play continues in Game 7

After Solomon Hill had spent more than 15 minutes answering every question posed by a constant flow of reporters after the Pacers’ Game 6 win, he hit the showers. As he got dressed, he spun his the chair around at his locker on the far end, exhaled, and said, “Man, I got a lot of packing to do. Gotta pack for the whole week.”

Those players who have been within the locker room for several years now have heard this pitch before from their head coach, Frank Vogel: Pack for a week.

Solomon Hill is shooting 61 percent from outside in this series. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

Solomon Hill is shooting 61 percent from outside in this series. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

That’s because they have to go on the road for Game 7 and win in Toronto to continue their season. If they win, they will spend the night in Toronto and then fly Monday morning to either Miami or Charlotte as Round 2 would begin on the road for the Blue & Gold, the seventh seed. They would play every other day, with the series beginning on Tuesday.

Fail to take Game 7, though, and they’ll return for exit interviews and locker clean out.

“We got to be ready to wherever we’re going but obviously we got to take care of business in Game 7. That’s top priority,” Vogel said after practice Saturday afternoon.

The Pacers took Game 1 in the series, so they’ve already won in wild environment at the Air Canada Centre where the franchise and its fans are so desperate for postseason success. They haven’t reached the second round in 15 years.

Pacers move past memorable loss, are now 48 minutes away from series win

Indiana’s core, however, has Game 7 experience. George Hill, Paul George, Monta Ellis, and Ian Mahinmi.

“It’s an all-out game,” Mahinmi, who led the team to a win in Game 4, said. “Those games are really tough to win. I’ve been in a lot of those and they are tough, especially on the road. It’s going to take everything we have.”

“All experience matters and helps,” Vogel said. “I’m actually really happy that Myles Turner, in his first playoff run, gets to play in a Game 7. That’s great for him and he’s going to do well. That kid’s a gamer.”

Before the game tips in primetime — 8:00 pm ET — on TNT, Paul George plans to address the team in the locker room.

“We’re not just going to run out there,” he said playfully after practice. Then he continued. “Yeah, I’ll definitely [talk to the guys] … and let these guys know that we’re putting it all on the line tonight.”

See, George has been thrusted into a leadership position this season because David West moved on to the San Antonio Spurs. He’s led with his play on the court — 27.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists, career-high playoff numbers — and by being more vocal.

Myles Turner has started the last three playoff games. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

Myles Turner has started the last three playoff games. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

“I’ve been forced to,” George shared. “I’m a talkative person so it’s been an easy role, it’s an easy transition and one I feel comfortable with.

“It’s been this whole series how I’ve approached it, by being the one that willing to do anything and everything, being the most physical guy out there. And that’s been good. I think my teammates have kind of drawn to the way that I’ve approached this series.”

The Pacers’ magic number on Sunday is 100 points. They are 3-0 this series when reaching triple digits.

[VIDEO: George Hill does the Running Man]

Each postseason, coach Vogel explains how the playoffs are like a chess match. Moves will be made, especially after both teams have a feel for the series and once the road team steals one as the Pacers did. Headed into Game 7, Vogel says it’s going to be all about “will and execution.” And yet there are still chess pieces that can be moved.

“Absolutely. I feel that,” he said. “There’s a lot of thinking that, ‘At this point, everybody knows what we’re going to know,’ but I still think there’s adjustments and fine-tuning that we can do.”

(Sidenote: The team is happy about the late start because the Toronto Marathon, with over 14,000 runners signed up, is scheduled for Sunday. Getting to the arena could have been a logistical nightmare.)

All the pressure is on Toronto. They’re the higher-seed team. They’re at home. And this core group has never won a playoff series together. The environment will likely feel tense, with fans (and perhaps players) on edge, and it would be surprising if the Raptors players didn’t come out tight.

“It’s always on the home team,” Mahinmi of the pressure in Game 7. “But it’s not about who has more pressure, it’s about the team that’s going to come all out. The team that plays better basketball is gonna win. That’s it.”

The Pacers, meanwhile, are playing with house money. And they’re going to enjoy the moment.

“That’s what you dream about,” Solomon Hill said of Game 7. “When you’re a little kid and you are watching it on TV, and your on the playground and out in the front yard playing basketball, you dream of moments like this. We have to leave it all out there.”

“If were serious about extending our series and going on to the next round, then this is a must-win. It’s 3-3,” George added. “That’s the motivation right there. It’s win or go home.”

Three suits, three shirts and three ties for Vogel. The Pacers packed for the next week because one, they had to and two, they are confident in their game plan and their recent play will propel them forward to at least another few weeks of basketball.

“Yeah, I hope everyone did,” George said of packing for the week. “I sure in heck did. I plan on continuing on after tomorrow.

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