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Pacers become first team to clinch spot in 2014 playoffs

Roy Hibbert (left) and Ian Mahinmi will be headed to the playoffs after clinching a spot on Wednesday. (Ron Hoskins/Getty Images)Roy Hibbert (left) and Ian Mahinmi will head to the playoffs after clinching a spot on Wednesday. (Ron Hoskins/Getty Images)

The Pacers have become the first NBA team to clinch a spot in the 2014 playoffs, accomplishing the feat 42 days before the end of the 2013-14 regular season.

Even though they fell to 46-15 after suffering a 109-87 road loss to Charlotte on Wednesday, Indiana maintained its 22-game lead over Detroit, who lost 105-94 at home to Chicago. The Pistons are currently the East's No. 9 seed with a 24-37 record, and they have just 21 games remaining on their schedule.

The No. 1 seeded Pacers currently hold a 1.5-game lead over the two-time defending champion Heat, who are the East's No. 2 seed. Indiana is seeking revenge after they lost to Miami in seven games in the 2013 Eastern Conference finals.

Indiana also holds a 12-game lead over Chicago as they chase their second straight Central Division title.

Coached by Frank Vogel and led by All-Stars Paul George and Roy Hibbert, the Pacers are projected to win 60 games, according to Basketball-Reference.com, which would mark the franchise's best season since 2003-04. Indiana is hoping to make its first Finals appearance since 2000, and winning the 2014 title would mark the first NBA championship in the franchise's history.
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