INDIANAPOLIS – Like his style of play, Lance Stephenson held nothing back when talking about the desperation of his team come Thursday night.
“You’ve got to bring everything,” said the Pacers guard about Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series against the Hawks in Atlanta. “If you’ve gotta bleed, break something. You’ve got to go all out.”
It’s not really melodramatic. After all, it’s do-or-die when it comes to staying in the NBA Playoffs.
After getting beaten by ten points in Game 5 at home on Monday night, the Pacers are staring down a historic elimination on Thursday night or even Game 7 should they reach it on Saturday evening. With a loss, they would become the sixth No. 1 seed to fall to an eighth seed in NBA Playoffs history.
Indiana would have their own place in history if they shouldn’t win the next to games as they would become the first top seed to lose to a bottom seed that finished the regular season with a losing record.
“We’ve got to play the best game we can in terms of energy, focus, hard work and all those things,” said forward Luis Scola when asked how the team must approach an elimination game mentally. “Then we’ll see what happens. I believe if we do those things than we’re going to be OK.”
According to Frank Vogel, confidence will be critical if the Pacers are to first get out of Game 6 with a victory.
“I think they’ve just got to continue to believe and I think we do,” said Vogel of the team. “We’ve got to win one basketball game, we don’t need to win two. That’s the plan, go in and win one game.”
Doing so will require the team slowing down a torrid Hawks’ three-point shooting attack which enjoyed its finest game on Monday. Atlanta shot 81 percent from behind the arc in the first half and didn’t drop off much in the final 24 minutes as they shot 15-of-27 from three-point range in building as much as a 30-point third quarter lead.
The Pacers shaved that advantage down to ten by the time the buzzer sounded but the need to improve outside defense was paramount from that point forward.
“We’ve got to guard the paint first, keep them off the free throw line,” said Vogel when asked specifically how to defend the three-point line better. “The we’ve got to get to the shooters a step faster than we’ve been.”
Vogel wouldn’t elaborate on anything new the Pacers might do on Thursday and neither did Paul George-though when asked about practice on Wednesday he did mention possible changes.
“We like our new schemes, new game plan so we’ve got to get prepared for a tough one,” said George. “Get this series back in Indy.”
As Stephenson said best, no matter what it takes.