The Pacers are winning 55+ games this season and making it to the NBA Finals, Turner says.
Dana Hunsinger Benbow, firstname.lastname@example.org
When three-time NBA champion LeBron James left Cleveland to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, the balance of power within the Eastern Conference shifted.
The acquisition of Kawhi Leonard has the Toronto Raptors (24-9) siting atop the Eastern Conference standings. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ascension toward superstar status has the Milwaukee Bucks (21-9) as the No. 2 seed. The upstart Philadelphia 76ers (21-12) traded for All-Star Jimmy Butler, adding him to their talented young core of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, helping them to a No. 3 seed in the east.
The Indiana Pacers (20-12) are currently fourth in the east, just three and a half games behind Toronto. The Boston Celtics (18-12) are in fifth place, one game behind Indiana and four and a half games out of first place.
The Pacers are within striking distance of the top spot in the conference, but not everyone believes they can get there. They could’ve been even closer to the Raptors, had they not lost their last two games on controversial calls from the referees.
On TNT’s “Inside the NBA” analyst Charles Barkley and Pacers legend Reggie Miller debated Indiana’s place in the conference.
Barkley: “There’s four teams in the east that have a legitimate shot of winning the east: Toronto, Philly, Boston and Milwaukee.”
Miller: “How about Indiana? Indiana has a shot to make the conference finals.”
Miller has been an advocate of the Pacers since the preseason.
Co-host Kenny Smith and Barkley praised star guard Victor Oladipo, but said they do not believe the Pacers have the supporting cast to contend.
“What scares you on these other teams?” asks Miller. “This same Indiana team with no changes is the same Indiana team that should’ve beat LeBron in Cleveland (in the playoffs) last year.”
The Pacers lost their first-round playoff matchup with the Cavaliers in seven games last season.
Indiana has a 3-2 record against Toronto, Philadelphia and Boston.
Follow IndyStar sports producer Akeem Glaspie on Twitter at @THEAkeemGlaspie.