In the end, the Indiana Pacers’ first-round playoff opponent, the Atlanta Hawks, isn’t the issue here.

The issue is the Pacers themselves, the way they’ve played the past two weeks, the fact they’ve morphed from one of the top defensive teams in the league all season to one of the worst during a stretch of five losses in six games.

The issue is Paul George, who has slumped badly since the West Coast sweep. In the five games before the meaningless season finale against Philadelphia, George averaged just 10.8 points per game, hit 17-of-60 shots and went 6-for-28 from 3-point range. When asked if fatigue was the reason for George’s poor play, which has also been marked by turnovers, Pacers coach Frank Vogel smiled and said, “I hope he’s (only) tired.’’

The issue is the same one the Pacers have had all season — the bench. Even Ian Mahinmi, the one bench player the Pacers could count on most of the season, has seen his minutes diminish because of poor play. (Repeat after me: Play Jeff Pendergraph. All he does is produce.)

The issue is, the Pacers are heading into the playoffs with zero momentum and very little confidence, dogged by doubts that stem from six straight miserable performances down the stretch.

The issue is, if the Pacers don’t rediscover their elemental selves, if they don’t dig down deep and find what made them so successful this season, they’re going to get upset in the first round.

If the Pacers play the way they played the first 75 games, they’ll be fine, will advance in five or six games. This is, after all, the team that finished second in the league in points allowed, first in field goal percentage defense, first in 3-point field goal percentage defense and first in rebounding.

If the Pacers continue to play like lost souls, they can get run before they know it.