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Next round will start Thursday

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers finally found out when
their second-round playoff series will begin, and it's not going to
be soon.

With their second-round opponent still to be determined, Pacers
coach Rick Carlisle said Friday he was told by league officials
that the series won't start until next Thursday -- regardless of
what happens in the New Orleans-Miami series.

That means the Pacers face an 11-day break between games.
Indiana wrapped up its first-round sweep of Boston on April 25.

"It's a unique situation," Carlisle said. "It presents
challenges on the one hand and opportunities on the other. We're
trying to make the best of it. In a way, it's good to know."

The Pacers will face the winner of the Hornets-Heat series,
which won't be decided until at least Sunday _ and possibly as late
as Tuesday.

The second-round schedule also coincides with the New
Jersey-Detroit matchup. Game 1 of that series will be played Monday
in Detroit with Game 2 on May 7.

Jermaine O'Neal said it's time for the NBA to consider returning
the first round to a five-game series rather than seven, which
generates more money from television contracts.

"It's good for (the NBA) because they're getting money, but
it's terrible for the players because it's just too long," O'Neal
said. "It's almost penalizing us for being good."

Carlisle is working hard to spice up practices with competitive
drills and scrimmages, all to avoid a lull in intensity. He is also
using the unusually long stretch to install new wrinkles in the
offensive and defensive, as well as fine-tune the transition game.

The layoff has put coaches and players in an unfamiliar
predicament.

"For basketball, it's a little weird," forward Austin Croshere
said. "I have different routines for workouts I will put myself
through three days before a game or two days before a game, but I
don't have a workout to put myself through 10 days before a game."

The Hornets-Heat series was tied at two entering Friday night's
Game 5 in Miami. Winning the series in six games would give either
team three days to rest and prepare for the Pacers. If it goes
seven games, the winner will have just one off day.

That might not be a bad thing, according to the Pacers.

"By next week, we'll be tired of playing against each other and
be ready to knock against someone else," forward Jeff Foster said.

Until then, it will be practice, practice and more practice for
the Pacers. Carlisle said the team will scrimmage a bit on
Saturday, take Sunday off and then return for three days of work
next week before Game 1.