Pacers-Heat first-round series
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Pacers keep losing in first round. Are they succeeding or failing?

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After the Pacers lost to the Raptors in the 2016 first round, Paul George dapped up Drake, high-fived Toronto fans and left the court with his head held high.

“At the end of the day, we had a good year,” George said. “We had a good run. It’s our first year together. We had a rookie in our lineup who’s going to get better.”

That rookie, Myles Turner, did get better. But after Indiana got swept by the Heat this year – the Pacers’ fifth straight first-round loss – the tone has changed.

“At some point, you have to get over the hump, man,” Turner said. “Five years of being in the playoffs, five first-round exits. So me, personally, I take that s— personally. You gotta find a way.”

The Pacers’ five-year run of losing in the first round is tied for third-longest since the NBA adopted a 16-team playoff format in 1984. Only the 1997-2003 Timberwolves (seven) and 1993-1998 Trail Blazers (six) have longer streaks of first-round losses:

Indiana’s recent first-round losses:

  • 2016: Raptors 4, Pacers 3
  • 2017: Cavaliers 4, Pacers 0
  • 2018: Cavaliers 4, Pacers 3
  • 2019: Celtics 4, Pacers 0
  • 2020: Heat 4, Pacers 0

The Pacers have shifted identities through this streak.

After reaching the 2013 and 2014 Eastern Conference finals behind its defense, Indiana built a more dynamic offense with players like Monta Ellis and Jeff Teague. That vision gave way to a team of scrappy veterans like Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic. Then, the Pacers got younger last summer.

Indiana’s most tenuous moment came when George effectively forced his way out and the Pacers traded him for a meager-looking return in 2017. But Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis demolished expectations and kept the playoff streak going.

Only Turner remains from the 2016 roster. Even the coach (Frank Vogel to Nate McMillan) and lead executive (Larry Bird to Kevin Pritchard) changed during the streak.

Along the way, Indiana produced memorable moments. In 2017, the Pacers lost to Cleveland by just 16 combined points – the closest sweep in NBA history. In 2018, Indiana pushed LeBron James harder in the first round than anyone else has.

But those were still first-round losses.

Losing in the first round is hardly uncommon. When the NBA adopted a 16-team postseason format in 1984, more than a third of the league suffered that fate. Expansion has increased the number of teams missing the playoffs. But more than a quarter of the league still loses in the first round each year.

Yet, the Pacers are especially prolific first-round losers.

Since the NBA adopted that 16-team postseason in 1984, Indiana has lost in the first round 16 times – second behind only the Trail Blazers (20, going on 21).

Probably not coincidentally, Herb Simon bought the Pacers entering the 1983-84 season. Under his watch, the small-market franchise has generally pursued moderate success rather than higher-risk, higher-reward plans. Payroll has mostly remained below the luxury-tax line. If merely making the playoffs with an affordable roster is the goal, the Pacers are succeeding.

While the Pacers spent the last five seasons losing in the first round, the Kings, Suns and Knicks didn’t make the playoffs at all. Is that really better? Maybe Phoenix and Sacramento got enough picks in the lottery to take off, but that remains theoretical. Indiana’s postseason appearances are guaranteed because they already happened.

But the stagnancy can get frustrating. George grew tired of it. Turner is already chafing. Approaching 2021 unrestricted free agency, Oladipo could leave for a more ambitious team.

Next year, are the Pacers more likely to advance to the second round or miss the playoffs? It’s a legitimately difficult question.

They still have Oladipo, Sabonis, Turner and Malcolm Brogdon under contract. But breaking into the Eastern Conference’s top tier won’t be easy without a lottery pick or cap space to upgrade. Yet, those quality players won’t let Indiana fall too far.

Making the playoffs is nice, especially for casual fans who are more likely to attend and watch games when their local team is winning. Sustained success, even moderate success, is commendable.

But, by now, the Pacers have experienced enough of that to want more – maybe even if it requires taking a step back.

Former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell “sad, angry, disgusted” with Breonna Taylor decision

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NBA players — like large swaths of the United States — are shaking their heads at the decision not to prosecute the police sho shot Breonna Taylor in her home. That includes LeBron James, who said the walls of Taylor’s neighbors got more justice than she did.

Now former Louisville star Donovan Mitchell has spoken out on the issue.

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We’re Sorry Breonna😔🤦🏾‍♂️

A post shared by Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) on

The hate and racism in too many of the responses to that Instagram post highlight the injustice and additional hurdles Black people in America have to clear every day.

Louisville has faced a night of protests and backlash to the decision by the grand jury, which included the two police officers getting shot (they both survived).

 

Report: Bulls paying Billy Donovan $6 million-plus annual salary

New Bulls coach and former Thunder coach Billy Donovan
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Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf just spent the NBA hiatus – at least if you looked beyond “The Last Dance” itself – getting dragged for not spending enough to give Michael Jordan another year of title contention in Chicago.

Paying to hire Billy Donovan is a way for Reinsdorf and the Bulls to repair their reputations.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

I’d be surprised if all four years are fully guaranteed. Coaching contracts of this length usually contain a team option or two.

But that’s still a hefty salary. Especially in these times. Especially considering it was believed the Bulls would keep Jim Boylen for financial reasons.

Donovan left the Thunder despite them offering him a new contract. He likely knew he could get more elsewhere.

Credit Chicago for being the team to spend. The Bulls needed a solid coach after Boylen and Fred Hoiberg.

Donovan won’t solve all Chicago’s problems, but he should help on multiple fronts. This upgrade costs nothing but Reinsdorf’s money, which every Chicago fan is perfectly willing to spend.

NBA playoff schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

NBA playoff schedule 2020
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And there were four.

The NBA is down to the conference finals — and the bubble has provided us with upsets galore. There are some unexpected teams in the NBA’s Final Four, but of course LeBron James is still there. The Lakers are the heavy favorites at this point.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except in the East, when ESPN wants a break not to clash with the NFL, and to let the West catch up. The fast pace of games will return with the NBA Finals.
Families for the players, and with the final four now the coaches, are in the bubble.
• The NBA has released an NBA Finals schedule to teams and their target is still a Sept. 30 Game 1. If either conference finals goes seven games that date will need to be pushed back.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 5 Miami Heat

Game 1: Heat 117, Celtics 114, OT
Game 2: Heat 106, Celtics 101
Game 3: Celtics 117, Heat 106
Game 4: Heat 112, Celtics 109 (Miami leads series 3-1)
Game 5: Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 6: Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game 7: TBD (ESPN)*
*If necessary

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 3 Denver Nuggets

Game 1: Lakers 126, Nuggets 114
Game 2: Lakers 105, Nuggets 103
Game 3: Nuggets 114, Lakers 106 (Lakers lead series 2-1)
Game 4: Sept. 24, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 5: Sept. 26, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game 6: Sept. 28, TBD (TNT)*
Game 7: Sept. 30, TBD (TNT)*
*If necessary

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0

PBT Podcast: Which players’ stock rose most in the bubble?

Jamal Murray Donovan Mitchell
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In the wake of Tyler Herro looking like the best offensive player Miami has seen since some guy decided to go back home to Cleveland, the question becomes what players have helped themselves the most in the bubble, and in the playoffs in particular?

Not coincidentally, Miami and Denver have a lot of those players, with the Nuggets Jamal Murray probably topping the list.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports get into that, talk some Boston/Miami series, and also talk about the recent coaching carousel including Billy Donovan to Chicago and the fact no team has hired a Black coach this offseason.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.