For the Indiana Pacers, it had been a long time since they could hold their heads high after a playoff series. So, forgive them for their exuberant celebration following their 105-87 victory Tuesday night at home, giving them a 4-1 first-round series victory over the Orland Magic.
”I’m just so happy for our fans,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. ”They’ve endured a lot those years when we struggled. To finally see us come back and have a winning team again and somebody that has a chance to do something special this year. That’s what they deserve. Pacers basketball is back.”
The Pacers will play likely face Miami, which is up 3-1 in its series against the New York Knicks, in the second round. Indy’s fans certainly do not believe the Knicks will mount a historic comeback. They chanted in the closing moments of Tuesday’s win: ”Beat the Heat.”
Forward Danny Granger led the Pacer charge with 25 points. He was impressed with the support of the fans.
”It was electric,” Granger said. ”The crowd was crazy. They had a lot of momentum going. They pushed us in that fourth quarter.”
It was a sort of mercy killing for Orlando, which endured a tumultuous season. The Magic played the series without All-Star center Dwight Howard, who had back surgery. Orlando won the first game, but just did not have enough to stop a four-game slide.
Meanwhile, Indiana clinched on its home court for the first time since the first round of the 2000 playoffs. No player on Indiana’s roster had won a playoff series while playing for the Pacers.
”It’s an unfamiliar situation for a lot of guys, but I just thought we stayed together,” Indiana forward David West said. ”They made some runs, made some shots. But ultimately, we stayed together as a team and won this game as a unit.”