This may be the first time in NBA playoff history that a team waved the white flag 1.75 games into the series. What's even more shocking is that the team waving the white flag has looked like the better squad for a significant portion of those seven quarters (I'm conveniently forgetting OT). But unless the Pacers find a backbone tonight, that's exactly what will have happened.

As snarky as that assessment is, you can't totally blame the Pacers for folding. The way they lost Game 1 was soul crushing. Then, after showing a bit of grit in the first half of Game 2, they came out in the second half as cold as Jack Nicholson at the end of "The Shining." Add that to the fact that All-NBA Third Teamer Tyrese Haliburton re-injured the same left hamstring that derailed the back half of his regular season, and you almost understand why Rick Carlisle decided to empty his bench with an entire quarter to play.

If we're just going by the deficit on the scoreboard when Carlisle made the bold move, a reasonable person could have argued that the Pacers were not out of the game. But, again, the deficit in morale seemed insurmountable – so saying "screw it, let Doug cook" didn't even feel that radical in the moment.

The scoreboard will reset at 0-0 before tonight's tip. The morale? Well, what happens there will ultimately be the story of the series. This has been a great year for the Pacers. I've talked ad nauseam about their knack for playing their best when their backs are against the wall. Still, if they go out with a whimper now, it will be hard to ignore a sour taste in my mouth all summer.

Don't get me wrong, I'll do it! I'm already texting people excuses about injuries and how the playoffs are a war of attrition. But if they don't fight – after all my talk about the Pacers being fighters – I'll feel betrayed.

For my sake, I hope they're in the locker room filing their teeth into fangs and putting cement in their gloves instead of thinking about which 5-star resort they'll be kicking back in next weekend.


How to Watch

Tipoff is at 8:30 PM ET.


Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan

See ya in the comments!

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