INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The message was clear Sunday night – the Indiana Pacers belong in the postseason.
Myles Turner had 28 points and 10 rebounds and the Pacers beat the Brooklyn Nets 129-105 to clinch a playoff berth.
Indiana controlled its fate and knocked the Chicago Bulls out of postseason contention.
The Pacers have been plagued by uncertainty and inconsistency this season, but in the final week, Indiana made it count when it mattered. Five minutes into this one, the Pacers used an 11-0 run for a 17-5 lead and led by double digits the rest of the way.
“It was our passion tonight to win. We were dominant. We took it to this team,” Pacers All-Star forward Paul George said. He finished with 15 points, six assists and five rebounds.
The Pacers could have clinched a playoff berth in Toronto on Friday night but lost by 13. That result left Indiana determined to take care of business Sunday.
“All year we felt we had a team that could do damage in the playoffs,” coach Frank Vogel said. “(Tonight) was about getting it done to get there. I think our guys were motivated after the Toronto game.”
Indiana went into halftime up 69-41. The Pacers starters remained in the game for much of the third quarter but were pulled when the Pacers extended the lead to 40 points.
Turner was bumped from the starting lineup during a stretch when Indiana lost five of eight in March. In this one, he helped the bench account for 70 points.
“Pride-wise, I want to start. You have to put your pride aside do your job, your role,” Turner said. “I’m completely fine with the role I am in right now. I am looking forward to the playoffs. I’ll have a big role (during) the playoffs.”
“I didn’t see a lot of fight with our starting group,” Nets coach Tony Brown said. “I wish they were prepared. I don’t know what to tell you. (Indiana) made shots, they played great.”
The Pacers have two games left and can still finish as high as seventh in the Eastern Conference if they end up with the same record as the Detroit Pistons. Indiana is back in the postseason for the first time since 2013-14, when it was the No. 1 seed and lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat in six games.
BACK TO THE PLAYOFFS
Pacers: Indiana set a season high for points in a game and in the first quarter and also tied its season high for points scored in the third quarter with 35. … The Pacers’ 42-point lead was their biggest of the season.
Nets: Brooklyn lost its regular season road finale for the ninth straight season.
Indiana will host the Knicks on Tuesday night.
Brooklyn will host the Wizards on Monday night.