The Indiana Pacers clinched the playoffs for the first time since 2006 after a win over the Washington Wizards today and a Charlotte Bobcats loss to the Orlando Magic. Danny Granger led the squad with 25 points, breaking a five-game streak of having 20 points or less as Indiana rallied to a 136-112 victory.

I have waited so long for this to happen. As a Pacers fan, I had to go through to the good, bad, and ugly from 2006-2010. But 2011 is going to be different and for then next decade hopefully.

The bad started when Indiana lost to the New Jersey Nets in the playoffs in the first round in six games. In 2007, Indiana struggled and following year Jermaine O'Neal was traded. T.J. Ford came and helped out and Danny Granger emerged into a star in 2009 as Indiana fell only a seed behind for the playoffs. 2010 looked to be the year, but it never happened as Indiana fell to the tenth seed with a miserable 32-50 record. 2011, things started out great, as Indiana went as high as the seventh or sixth seed. After that, December-to-late-January was a disaster and Indiana struggled. Frank Vogel came in and has fixed everything, now 19-16 for the year as the Pacers are revived and back into the playoff contention.

Vogel wanted this team to make the playoffs and wanted them to start off great right away when he was hired as the interim head coach. He has not let the team down and has gave something Indiana has never had since Reggie Miller left: confidence. Indiana finally has full confidence in themselves, which has led to the fabulous play of Roy Hibbert, Granger, Darren Collison, Tyler Hansbrough, and Paul George. Mike Dunleavy and Josh McRoberts have also improved themselves.

Indiana had to live with a younger line-up, which meant a harder time to get chemistry going, but a huge hat-tip to this man, Frank Vogel!

"It's a credit to Frank and his staff," Granger said. "Granted, we still have some problems, and we had some problems along the way, but with the time they had to rehaul the team and do things differently, I think they did a great job."

Indeed, they have. As the game ended, the Charlotte Bobcats-Orlando Magic game was still going on. In Conseco Fieldhouse, they put the game on the Jumbo-Tron. Many fans stayed to watch, and the Magic prevailed with a 111-102 defeat. Vogel's prediction has finally come true.

"I'm just really, really happy for a lot of people," he said. "I'm so happy for our fans. It's going to be a fun ride."

I remember when I made my season preview for the Pacers, I had them going 42-40 with a seventh seed. Many people doubted as they though Indiana couldn't get ahead of teams like the Charlotte Bobcats and Milwaukee Bucks. Many, instead, had Indiana going with a record like 34-48 with a tenth seed. But I believed, and Indiana is going strong, with a 36-43 record and an eighth seed.

They will in fact play the Chicago Bulls for the playoffs, and it looks to be a good one. But we also need to give Jim O'Brien some credit for how he did until his coaching slump hit in December.

"He's [Vogel] a disciple of O.B.," veteran center Jeff Foster said. "I have the utmost respect for O.B., and I'm sad that he's not around to get a chance to experience this with us, because this was his goal as well, and he's built this to where we are now."

This will be Mike Dunleavy's first ever time in the playoffs in his nine-year career.

"It feels great, but I really didn't think it would take nine years to do this," he said. "I am really happy that I am here and could do it with such a class organization."

Paul George had a great game for Indiana, having 23 points and six rebounds, a career-high. Hansbrough played well and McRoberts, who got the highlight-reel. Darren Collison got a double-double.

"It's an honor to get back to the playoffs, to be a part of that," he said. "It's cool to be able to see it through."

The Pacers broke a four-year losing-record to not make the playoffs, and are now finally in. It took the New York Knicks six years. With that, the only other teams are the Minnesota Timberwolves, who haven't made in six years and the Clippers and Kings, who had four years.

The Memphis Grizzlies haven't made it in four years, but are most likely to make it this year, as they are three-and-a-half games ahead of the Houston Rockets. They will most likely make it.

So it seems like the playoff teams are set. The only other thing? The seeds.

But thank God the Pacers have finally made it. I am proud of you guys! Welcome back to the playoffs!

It's about time.


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