Have the Pacers lost their Edge?




VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses Paul George’s slump and the Pacers’ struggles

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The playoff bid is clinched, locked up before anyone else in the league. Yet after five games in seven nights, there is suddenly a lingering fog surrounding the Indiana Pacers.

That brash, bruising, defensive-minded machine we saw before the All-Star break doesn’t look nearly as intimidating these days. That team that vowed to chase the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, in an effort to play host a potential showdown against reigning two-time NBA champion Miami Heat in the conference finals, has been humbled lately with crushing defeats both at home and on the road.

The Pacers’ best players — All-Stars Paul George and Roy Hibbert, as well as Lance Stephenson and David West — have all endured their fair share of struggles. Coach Frank Vogel remains as confident as ever, something you’d expect from a coach who understands that seeing the Pacers reach their ultimate goals is a painstaking process fraught with trials and tribulations. Vogel and his crew know that unmitigated attention to detail is required to overcome any adversity.

Still, it’s enough to make you wonder — have the Pacers lost a little bit of the edge that led them to the top of the standings? They were so good so fast this season that a bit of a letdown was inevitable. But it’s dangerous to play this game this close to the end of the regular season.

“Over the last 20 games or so, we just haven’t had our mojo,” West said after the Bobcats beat the Pacers Wednesday night in Charlotte on the back-end of a back-to-back. “We’ve got to change some things up because these last 20 games is going to be a battle.”

“Right now I think we’re on our downs,” Stephenson said. “We just got to get back on our ups, work together and play as a unit.”

The Pacers also have to return to the identity that led them to the top of the standings.

They were a defensive juggernaut to start the season, holding teams down in every facet and allowing just 90.3 points per game through All-Star weekend. In the nine games since then, they are giving up close to 100 points a night.

“We can’t get teams under control,” West told the Indianapolis Star. “Nobody’s afraid of us and we got to regroup. We got to get back to the basics. We got tough two-game trip out West and it’s got to mean something to us to go out and do whatever we have to do to win these games.”

The road trip he’s speaking starts Friday with a date with the Houston Rockets, who have the league’s best record since Jan. 1. Then comes Sunday’s game in Dallas against the Mavericks. They’ll be tested by two Western Conference playoff teams with the ability to make the Pacers uncomfortable in many different ways.

There is also a seven-games-in-11-days stretch looming at the end of the month, a grind that includes two games against the Chicago Bulls (home and away), road games in Memphis, Washington and Cleveland and showdowns with the Heat (March 26) and San Antonio Spurs  (March 31) that will shed more light on whether or not these Pacers are as ready for prime time as they appeared to be just a month ago.

Changes to their make-up (Evan Turner and, eventually, we assume, Andrew Bynum) will also force the Pacers to continue to tweak their chemistry. They have to be proactive in terms of how they make their own internal adjustments.

But when you build up the sort of reservoir of victories and the quality body of work the Pacers did out of the gate, it’s almost impossible to squander it now. A two-game tailspin can be survived.

If there are cracks in the foundation, though, you better believe the other contenders on both sides of the conference divide have noticed. And they’ll be sure to do whatever they can to exploit that in the future.


VIDEO: The Bobcats thumped the Pacers and shut down Paul George and Roy Hibbert in the process

29 Comments

  1. DRAGONFORMVP says:

    Pacers do not so well against fast offense and loads of pick and roll plays, they got swept by Pheonix and lost to Minnesota. Hibbert is a liability against certain teams.

  2. Javier says:

    I think people are making a big deal over nothing. Losing to the Bobcats is nothing to be ashamed of, they are a young and upcoming team and had Homecourt advantage. Pacers just had an off night perhaps. Besides, the night earlier, the King dropped 61 on them so they wanted to take their anger out on someone. Even the Heat have their ups and downs, losing to teams like the Kings and Jazz. It’s nothing to worry about. They’re all NBA teams after all, a team full of pros can beat any team full of pros on any given night. I’m pretty sure the 2013 Pacer team will come back when the playoffs start.

  3. Jason says:

    Every championship team has a slump at some point during their championship season. They’ll be fine, Evan Turner’s gonna play a huge role in the playoffs.

  4. okc2014 says:

    There is nothing to worry about you Pacers fans. All good teams have bad games. Give the guys a break. The only concern I have with the Pacers is that Larry Bird lied about not acquiring Andrew Bynum so that the Heat couldn’t. Oh, where art thou, Sir Andrew Bynum?

  5. Earl The Pearle Chambers says:

    The Pacers have placed so much focus on winning the division in order to get home court advantage. I have studied them from the start of the season and have noticed some chinks in their armor. They need to strengthen their mentality in order to make a championship run. There is only one real warrior on the team and that is David West. He brings it and also a “man’s” game every night. Lance has a few loose marbles in his head and once a defender gets in there, he is no more good for the night. This will be exploited nightly. George is good but does not have the maturity needed to lead the team. All the additions create doubt and that is what they suffer from presently. Hopefully, they can strengthen the weak spots. Miami will have their way with them if they don’t get it together.

  6. ricz says:

    It’s really impossible for the pacers to take the fist spot in the east especially w/ miami heat
    So too bad pacers….you’re planned to take the home court advantage in the playoff is impossible

  7. Ripper35 says:

    Paul George is overrated. He can’t be Lebron, Kobe, MJ, or any superstar. He is a ball hog and will not share the ball. If you know it is not your night, it is not your night. Simple. Share the ball to somebody else who might have a great shooting night. I think Turner is a better player and a playmaker than George. He should take George spot in the starting lineup.

  8. dustydreamnz says:

    I wouldn’t be worried although you would think they have a lot to play for-heading Miami for no.1 in the East-it’s a great battle!

  9. zhiggi says:

    C’mon this is nothing…..miami lost consecutively and we got a similar article like the one here, okc lost and they got a similar article, and now the pacers…every team has their ups and downs not to mention short term…no worries at all…its gonna be a nice playoff competition….

    • LakersWillWIn says:

      This upcoming stretch of tough games will really tell us about these Pacers. I’ve been high on them all season, but they have taken a step back. Can’t wait to see the outcome.

  10. THE CURSE OF ANDREW BYMUM!
    jk…. but seriously …

  11. THE ANDREW BYNUM CURSE!

  12. coltraning says:

    Meh, it is really just about filling space in early March. Hell, even the 95-96 bulls and 71-72 Lakers had a 2 game losing streak during the year. These are the same pacers who had just won 5 straight, right? Look, the game against the Warriors was epic, high level, two excellent teams battling. As for the bobcats? EVERY team lays an egg. A few nights before the Pacers got blown out in Charlotte, the Warriors were destroyed by Chicago. Fans (and writers) get so hyper-reactive over a game or two. It’s not the NFL, where losing that one game at home cost the Niners home field and, likely, a super bowl. We all know that it will be Indy and Miami in the ECF, they may as well play it now. Indiana remains, along with Miami, OKC, SA and the Clippers one of the top 5 teams in the league…

  13. Shaqtin a fool says:

    Sekou Smith’s artcles stink! Plain and simple.

    Two losses don’t mean a thing. Things like this happen during a grueling season. Similar article was written after OKC’s 3 consecutive losses.

  14. v says:

    That depends. nothing has changed in their status as the unquestioned 2nd best team in the east. but this definitely does bring into question their ability to defeat the heat which in the last two playoffs has defeated them dispite injuries to key players on the heat side. first bosh in 2012, then wade went knee to knee with a pacer in game one of 2013 series which left him much unlike himself. so yeah if they loose home court which looked like they had it locked up 10 games ago, its hard to see this year being any diffrent since they havent really changed anything on their team and LBJ can and will still dominate Paul george which always causes troubles for pacers. but will be a great series.

  15. Paul Friedericks says:

    PG likes so much Kobe but…
    He needs to rewatch some kobe tapes and focus on the attitude of the mamba…
    In 3 words? Too much smiling…
    In 2 words? Killer Instinct

  16. Steven says:

    Trading for Turner was a dumb idea. This reminds me a lot like what the Grizzlies did last year they had what many considered a championship ready team then they traded Rudy Gay? Danny Granger to me looked like he accepted his role on the team. Not sure if there was something behind the scenes that we aren’t being told but I think trading for Turner ruined the chemistry of the team because Turner who was draft number 2 over all believes that he’s better than Paul George and if you ask me this situation in Indiana is going to get ugly because Turner is used to getting minutes and shots plus he has a chip on his shoulder and then of-course you also have to factor in Stevenson.

    I don’t like the trade and I think small market teams should at the very least give it one run for a championship before destroying the chemistry of a team. OKC did it, Memphis did it and Indiana’s now done it. If you have a small market team the idea the way I see it is you want a championship to build a culture around which gives part time fans more of an incentive to come and watch games. At all times you gotta go for it. I have no issue with the Bynum deal he can ride the pine all day long without having any effect on team chemistry Turner on the other hand that guy has an ego and I think it will show itself in the playoffs when the WORLD starts noticing his questionable shot selection.

  17. freal says:

    Just a part of the story-line…who in the league hasn’t faced adversity on their way to a deep playoff run….it might actually make them better…

  18. thespectator says:

    pacers will def kick it up a notch in the playoffs as will miami, this year will be different with the addition of greg oden and also beasely who at times has shown hes a beast…once the three ball is going for miami, indy is out…but i do expect it to go def 6, possibly 7..no need to “panic” but some concern which im sure vogel will address..

  19. Naaah nothing to worry about. Don’t make try to make losses into a big issue.

    • AD says:

      Losing is one thing, but losing so badly is another. It just shows shortcomings and weaknesses. To me, it means that Pacers, at times, struggle offensively. They only managed to score 8 points in the 1st, to ‘Cats’ 28. Now, I truly understand why they brought in Turner.

  20. krishawn-MIA says:

    They’ll get it back, 82 games is a lot and all good teams will have a slight slippage at some point, doing it at the end can throw your rythm off though but they’re in the east so its not like they’ll get upset by an 8 seed or even 7 but that #1 seed they’re chasing is pointless-great teams win on the road

  21. theking0522 says:

    They are just a bad offensive team. The thing that they must be afraid about is that Miami is better defensively than most of the teams they have faced lately, especially when they are on the playoffs. And how about those comments about Lebron scoring 61 against a bad team? Well, the Pacers starting five scored 45 points, COMBINED against the Bobcats. Lebron’s 61 doesn’t look that bad after all

    • AD says:

      Solid argument.

    • Whom says:

      It’s more about match ups then who does what defensively/offensively on the opposing team when it comes to Indiana. The Pacers have a rough(er) time against teams with size who can also score (since Hibbert isn’t a prolific scorer, and West is also somewhat limited). However, Indiana matches up incredibly well against Miami because of the Heats lack of size. The height advantage in the paint makes it easier for Hibbert and West to score over their defense where it might be difficult against most other teams. So against Miami especially, scoring shouldn’t be an issue, and really hasn’t been.

      It’s actually their defense of all things that could get them in trouble against the Heat, because no one can stop Lebron. Is their defense, and more importantly consistency and mental prowess, good enough to win despite knowing Lebron will get his stats no matter what. Shutting down the other role players is key. Shutting down Bosh, their best rebounder and a good scorer in his own right, is key. Wade’s ability to help confidently and physically is still up in the air, though he’s not as invincible as James at this point in his career and can be controlled. But mental breakdowns do occur, especially when a player you try so hard to stop just keeps putting numbers on the board.

    • Witness says:

      Exactly. Plus remember how KD shot against them? 8-24 vs Bobkittens and 0-6 i believe from 3. Their D is LEGIT top 5 or 6. So all the haters keep on hatin

      • Javier says:

        You did not just call the Bobcats the “bobKittens.” Just makes you look like an idiot and pretty much makes everyone not take your “argument” seriously.

    • NBAgirl says:

      Well put “theking0522″.