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Pacers’ goal: Seize momentum from playoff run

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Burrow your way through the mountain of statistics left behind from the Indiana Pacers’ 2012-13 season and one comes across an interesting number: 19.

This is how many postseason games this club just finished playing. Third-most in franchise history for one season behind the 1971-72 ABA champions (20) and the 1999-2000 Pacers (23), who came up short in the NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Pretty impressive company.

So while we’re all pondering how the Pacers could perform such a Game 7 belly-flop entirely void of style points, take a

moment to appreciate what was accomplished.

Those 19 playoff games?

It’s three more than the past two seasons combined and equal to the six seasons prior to that (2004-10).

Now it’s onward and upward. At least that’s the hope.

Indiana’s first order of offseason business must be to sign ageless power forward David West to another two-year deal.

On a roster chalk full of 20-somethings, West, who turns 33 in August, carries the air of the consummate professional. When he speaks, teammates listen. When he yells, they really listen.

If West playing Game 6 of the Miami series with a 103-degree temperature — and, at certain points, actually dominating on the court — doesn’t speak volumes about the man’s dedication, you’re simply not paying attention.

Management also must tweak and perhaps even overhaul the Pacers’ band of backups. Having said that, utilizing 6-8 swingman Danny Granger in a sixth-man role in 2013-14 might immediately alter how Indiana’s bench play is viewed both locally and throughout the league.

Granger, while an ocean’s width from being one of Indiana’s best defenders, is an established talent with a scorer’s mentality. Even if West, Roy Hibbert and Paul George are on the bench at the same time, Granger is capable of drawing enough defensive attention that he can create open looks for teammates.

Such an element was sorely lacking this season.

And I wouldn’t worry too much about Hibbert. Yes, the towering big man’s inappropriate and unfortunate selection of words following Game 6 placed minor dents in his reputation; but behind the scenes, Hibbert absolutely starves to be elite.

Nearly every Pacers practice I’ve attended the past few seasons has been followed by the sight of Hibbert working with assistant coach Jim Boylen. Everything from conditioning to dexterity to becoming more ambidextrous with that left-handed hook shot is covered.

It showed this postseason, particularly during the Miami series.

Hopefully, the play of starting guards George Hill and Lance Stephenson becomes more consistent with experience. Stephenson is the human equivalent of hot and cold running water, while Hill at times appears to be more of a natural “2” guard than the “1” where he’s playing now.

Stephenson at 22 is Indiana’s youngest player. He’ll get better because, like Hibbert, he wants to be better.

By October the Pacers will look mostly the same, but a little different compared with this season. Since completion of the 2009-10 season, they’ve found a way to win an average of six more regular-season games than during the previous year.

That puts Indiana at 55-27 next season. Hopefully a home-court advantage throughout the playoff comes with it.

The next step awaits.

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. Send comments to mbeas@dailyjournal.net.

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