I admit, I do not frequently participate in RoF. I rarely comment, and indeed this is my first fanpost--so be nice.
That said, I am an avid Horncats fan, and I like to think I know my stuff pretty well.
I am here to make the argument that we are better off in a 7-game series against the Pacers than we are against the Raptors or the Bulls (tied currently for 3rd in the East), and that therefore we should, after several months of praying Washington/Brooklyn would slip below us in the standings, stop immediately (because, you know, rooting for teams affects the outcome of games... lolz). Sarcasm aside, I still think this is something worth considering.
Indiana is a mere 13-11 since the all-star break. They are just not the team they were at the beginning of the season. If you remember, they pinned their entire season on getting the 1 seed so that when it came time for them to face the Heat in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, they could play game 7 at home. As a result, they came out the gate on a tear--but either they've run out of steam or the rest of the league has caught up to them as of late. Check out Hollinger's Power Rankings on ESPN right now. Indiana is 14th. FOURTEENTH!!! To give you an idea of how the rest of the (L)east is doing: Miami is 5th, Toronto 9th, Chicago 13th, Wizards 15th, Nets 16th, Cats 17th, Knicks/Hawks somewhere around Hades. Honestly, I think Indiana is actually too high on this list. Since March began, they've played 9 potential playoff teams (including the Knicks.... who they lost to) they beat a whopping *one* of those nine... granted, it was against the Heat, but still. One out of nine.
Toronto is 15-8 since the all-star break. Chicago is 16-7. Chicago has likewise defeated Miami. Chicago has Joakim Noah, who I think is playing at the level of a top-5 NBA player right now--call me crazy, but that guy is the best bet in the league to accumulate a triple double. And he's ridiculously efficient. A better competitor and more serious threat, in my opinion, than anybody on the Pacers. Toronto, meanwhile, is vastly underrated. They beat the Rockets two nights ago, and lost by 1 to the Thunder in OT a couple weeks ago.
People might make the argument that the Pacers have more playoff experience. I don't think this is as important as how hot a team is entering the playoffs. And even if you do buy that experience is more important, that Bulls team has a lot of it too, and they are just as likely to be the team that plays the 6 seed as are the Raptors. At the end of the day, I just really like our odds against Indiana, and I think everybody is underestimating the 2 teams that have the chance of finishing 3rd in the East.
What do you think?