On Sunday afternoon, star point guard Tyrese Haliburton and the Indiana Pacers officially clinched a spot in the upcoming playoffs with a resounding 42-point home win over the Atlanta Hawks in the final game of the regular season, setting up a first-round playoff matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks in the 3 vs 6 series in the Eastern Conference. The occasion marked a fitting conclusion for a Pacers regular season that has defied expectations leaguewide, with Haliburton blossoming into an All-Star starter and Indiana making an all-in move to acquire Pascal Siakam from the Toronto Raptors prior to the NBA trade deadline.

Of course, Indiana has long been known as a basketball state and this will be the first season in quite some time that Pacers fans will be able to root on the home team in the NBA playoffs, so it should be no surprise that Myles Turner is anticipating a raucous environment in Indianapolis for Games 3 and 4, and potentially 6 of the series vs the Bucks.

“We need y'all man, believe in us, belief goes along way. Put that energy towards your Pacers and let's keep rolling,” said Turner, per Bally Sports Indiana on X, the social media platform formerly referred to as Twitter.

“All we asked for was an opportunity, and now it's our turn to make some noise,” Turner added, per the Pacers official team account on X.

Haliburton himself also reflected on what the opportunity to compete in the NBA playoffs for the first time in his career means to him.

“For me to be able to get that opportunity, I'm just really excited,” said Haliburton, per the Pacers on X.

Meanwhile, head coach Rick Carlisle knows that the hard work for the Pacers is just beginning.

“We're happy to be in, but our work has just begun,” said Carlisle, per the Pacers on X. “That's the way we're going to look at this. Just getting to the playoffs is not the goal. The goal is a championship… We've got to have big aspirations and have high standards. That's what we're going to take into this.”

An upstart season for the Pacers

The Pacers were expected to perhaps secure a slot in the NBA play-in tournament heading into this year, as the team showed some flashes with Haliburton at the helm toward the end of last season but still figured to be firmly behind teams like the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference hierarchy. Instead, the Pacers finished higher in the standings than both of those teams, and will be taking on a Bucks team who they had a fun rivalry with during this past regular season.

Of course, the big question heading into this series will revolve around the health of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who recently suffered a calf strain and whose availability for the series is in some question. If Antetokounmpo is out of the lineup, it's hard to envision the Bucks having enough firepower to compete with Indiana. However, if the Greek Freak is healthy and available, the Pacers are sure to be the betting underdogs.