LOPRESTI: Pacers fans get two teams for price of one: Good and Bad

mike lopresti sportsComing April 28 to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Game 5 of the first three-team playoff series in NBA history.

Yes, it’s the Atlanta Hawks vs. either the Good Indiana Pacers or the Bad Indiana Pacers. Depends on who shows up. Two’s company, three’s an enigma. No wonder the basketball court has looked a little crowded. But then, this has been the season the Pacers came up with a unique marketing strategy.

Two home teams for the price of one!

The Good Pacers earned the No. 1 seed in the East.

The Bad Pacers look as if they’d have trouble earning the No. 1 seed in the Big East.

The Good Pacers are tough and resolute.

The Bad Pacers are wussies. That’s Charles Barkley’s word after Game 1, not mine. The Bad Pacers must not have liked it, because they turned into the Good Pacers in Game 2.

The Good Pacers followed the straight and narrow much of the early winter, on a direct route to the playoffs.

If you saw anyone drive the Bad Pacers’ path, you’d want to administer a breathalyzer test.

The Good Pacers dwell in a locker room of open communication and unity of purpose, and remind you of Modern Family. “We talk to one another,” David West was saying. “So nothing festers.”

The Bad Pacers sometimes emit vibes that remind you of the Kardashians.

The Good Pacers are yin.

The Bad Pacers are yang.

On the Good Pacers, Roy Hibbert is a formidable All-Star force in the middle.

On the Bad Pacers, Roy Hibbert gets his shot swatted by a guy who barely comes up to his chin.

The Good Pacers went 35-6 at home during the regular season, best in the NBA.

The Bad Pacers opened the postseason at home and played as if they were just coming out of anesthesia.

The Good Pacers understand the long sweep of the NBA season, and how to be ready when the important stuff comes.

“We know it’s a grind. You’re basically playing 82 exhibition games,” West said. “I think what we went through, our guys have gotten stronger. Some of our younger guys have matured and taken another step in just dealing with being a pro athlete.”

The Bad Pacers are still trying to remember what December felt like.

The Good Pacers make Larry Bird’s moves look shrewd and forward-thinking.

The Bad Pacers make Larry Bird’s moves look like he was throwing darts at a board on his office wall.

The Good Pacers are like riding on a smooth superhighway.

The Bad Pacers are like hitting the potholes on Keystone Avenue.

The Good Pacers learned from the recent ordeals.

“You can’t talk guys through certain situations. You just have to live it,” West said.

The Bad Pacers look as if all their experience—plus $4.50—would get you a small popcorn at the concession stand.

The Good Pacers fill Bankers Life Fieldhouse with happy and hopeful customers.

The Bad Pacers send a lot of those customers onto Pennsylvania Street muttering about where the Good Pacers went.

The Good Pacers make Frank Vogel a coach of the year candidate.

The Bad Pacers could make Frank Vogel a member of the TNT pregame show.

The Good Pacers, especially Paul George, quickly grew weary of Atlanta guard—and Indianapolis native son—Jeff Teague and his chirping early in the series. George aimed to quash him.

“I understand he’s playing at home and he’s comfortable,” George said. “He’s a great player. I’m going to challenge him, go back at him, but let him understand this is our arena as well.”

Teague looked like Moses parting the Red Sea when he went down the lane against the Bad Pacers.

On the Good Pacers, George is an inspired star playing like an MVP candidate. “One of their guys woke up a sleeping beast, or whatever the saying is,” Hibbert said. He presumably meant Teague, and the word “giant.”

On the Bad Pacers, Paul George is still occasionally napping.

The Good Pacers went looking this season for national recognition.

The Bad Pacers handled national recognition as if it were a hot iron.

With the Good Pacers, you can confidently predict a deep playoff run.

With the Bad Pacers, you get the situation at constant Defcon 1.

The Good Pacers are hard to beat.

The Bad Pacers are hard to watch.

Luis Scola, having been around a few blocks, seems to have it figured out.

“When you play harder, all those little things go to your side. Loose balls, rebounds, calls. It gives you more confidence. The game becomes easier.

“If we play the way we played in Game 1, we’re going to lose regardless of X’s and O’s, regardless of who we play, regardless of where we play.”

The Good Pacers should wear white at home. The Bad Pacers should wear gold. Then at least we’d know what was coming. You can’t be sure what you’re getting until you look at the scoreboard.

The Good Pacers will be playing the Miami Heat in a few weeks.

The Bad Pacers will be playing golf.•


Lopresti is a lifelong resident of Richmond and a graduate of Ball State University. He was a columnist for USA Today and Gannett newspapers for 31 years; he covered 34 Final Fours, 30 Super Bowls, 32 World Series and 16 Olympics. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mlopresti@ibj.com.

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