Foul trouble, quiet Danny Granger doom Indiana Pacers in Game 1

The Indiana Pacers made their presence felt early Sunday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

A few glaring problems, however, prevented the upstart team from completely shocking the nation with an opening-game victory.

The Pacers, the East’s No. 3 seed, couldn’t shake deep foul trouble, poor free-throw shooting and quiet nights from wings Danny Granger and Paul George, falling 95-86 to the second-seeded Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena.

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It’s finally time: Indiana Pacers vs. Miami Heat in Eastern Conference Semifinals

This time three years ago, the Indiana Pacers had fallen so far out of the public eye, both nationally and in their own city, there was talk the franchise might soon be on the move.

Now, they’re about to be as relevant in sports nation as they can be — they’re playing a playoff series against the most polarizing team in the NBA — and maybe in American sports.

Fresh off a 4-1 opening-round victory against the Orlando Magic in which the Pacers gained back much of the lost connection with local fans, they carry the momentum of their first playoff series win in seven years into an Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with the second-seeded Miami Heat.

Does Indy stand a chance?

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Indiana Pacers net third seed in East with April run

Look at the top of the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings as this lockout-shortened regular season draws to a close.

The top two teams look familiar — the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat.

The third-place team in the East? It isn’t the Boston Celtics. It isn’t the Orlando Magic.

It’s the Indiana Pacers.

The long-suffering franchise has climbed to a 41-22 record, winning 11 of their 12 games in April — best in the NBA this month. We all knew the Pacers could have a strong 2011-12 campaign on the heels of their competitive playoff series with the Chicago Bulls last season, but how exactly did they get this good?

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