Pacers’ funk deepens in Game 1 loss

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: Hawks vs. Pacers: Game 1

They got beat on it. They got booed on it. And at this point, they probably don’t even feel worthy of it.

That home court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse that mattered so much to the Indiana Pacers that they staked their season on it – maybe even strained their season going after it – is gone. Gone, like those sad, bewildered fans leaving early Saturday into the Indianapolis night, their body language trudging up the stairs looking as defeated as the team on the floor.

So gone, that when the players and coaches show up tomorrow or the day after in search of answers in practice, they might find the locks have been changed.

The Pacers’ goal since the first day of training camp: Capture the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference so that, should they face the NBA’s two-time defending champions in a Game 7 with a trip to The Finals on the line, they would have it in their building, on their floor, in their comfort zone (35-6 there this season). Yet after their 101-93 loss to Atlanta, just about everything about that previous sentence – the quest and its context – is wrong.

This was Game 1. Of the first round. Against an opponent that won only 38 times in the regular season. And now the undermanned Hawks have seen to it that no one – not them, not any other postseason foe the Pacers may never actually see – has to win another game this spring at the BLFH. Three Atlanta victories at Philips Arena in the next five games and Indiana won’t make it to a Game 7, never mind the Game 7.

“It’s frustrating,” Pacers forward Paul George said in the interview room afterward. “But it’s one game. It’s a long series. That’s how we’ve got to a look at it. Take it game by game. Just got to prepare for the next one.”

Sorry, there is no “just” about this. And if the Pacers are as calm and focused on a few basketball Xs & Os as George and coach Frank Vogel made it seem in their postgame pressers, they’re going to find themselves in a most uncomfortable zone, their offseasons begun prematurely, wondering for an extra five or six weeks what went so wrong.

This has gone on too long, too unchecked to be fixed in a film session or in a walk-through. Whether the Pacers’ deepening funk started around the All-Star break (they’re an ordinary 16-15 since, counting Saturday) or a little later (12-14 since March 1), their denial of how bad it was getting – and the absence of any appropriately desperate measures to fix it – has left them no wiggle room whatsoever.

Years from now, NBA coaches could be using these 2014 Pacers to illustrate the age-old point that you can’t just flick a switch when the playoffs start: Either you go in with momentum or you go home sooner than expected.

Several key Pacers reportedly huddled up in the locker room after this one, but that’s stale at this point, too much been-there, done-that. What they needed – now, sure, but probably a month ago – was something far more drastic.

Here’s how Rick Fox, a member of the Lakers’ three-peat teams from 2000-2002, put it on NBA TV: “A little panic would look good on this team. I’m done listening to them try to convince us everything’s OK. That it’s just one game. They’ve been saying it’s one game for the last 30 games.

“There needs to be some panic here. That would create some urgency. Then they could actually accept what they’ve been doing. So they can wash it down and start to move toward something they once were. … They’re playing as if nothing is really seriously wrong.”

There were some seams showing after this latest, most glaring embarrassment. Roy Hibbert, Indiana’s 7-foot-2 rim protector who had his own shots blocked twice by 6-foot-7 Kyle Korver, sounded a little petulant when wondering if maybe he is the problem against Atlanta’s “stretch 5″ offense, with center Pero Antic pulled out to 3-point range and the floor spread for shifty point guard Jeff Teague.

Curiously, George talked about a stretch in the third quarter when he left the floor for quickie treatment on a bruised thigh. Indiana had closed to 60-58 when he subbed out, and by the time George came back from the trainers room, it was 71-58, headed eventually to 20-point ugliness.

“I checked out,” George said, when asked about the Hawks’ 30-16 edge in that quarter. “I don’t know what happened.”

So much for looking “into their souls,” as analyst Hubie Brown said from his courtside post in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder were flexing a more lively homecourt advantage over Memphis.

As disappointed as Indiana fans are with the Pacers, as much grief as that team is getting from critics both locally and nationally, the ones who really ought to be ticked at them are the Hawks. As well as Atlanta played – solid work on the boards, far more hustle for loose balls, more aggression overall – this game wound up being defined by Indiana’s failures, not their success.

And then George patronized them a little when he said, “They played as good as they can play.”

The question of the moment is, how would George know that about any team? Certainly not from looking around his own dressing room.

62 Comments

  1. Grit n' Grind says:

    maybe this team should not be called Pacers but Indiana Whiners. yeah Defense wins championships but look at the Pacers so called Brick Wall team of this season doesn’t even know how to shoot well. sometimes teams that are good in defense flunk in offense efficiency in that case this Pacer team really prove that after All-Star break. a well refined starting unit but with a bunch of no where bench just like the OKC. even though the Hawks are just a practice team for them for second round match, still the Hawks have enough and maybe more firepower to crank up some offense unlike with these Indiana team who’s been daydreaming that things could be easy for them on making the top seed of the East. i would rather say Heat-Bulls round 2 in ECF and Bulls-Pacers in semis, with Bulls winning it in 5.

    still not Beast of the East.

  2. Big Al says:

    Karma may have just worked its way around the Indiana. Grabbing Bynum for safekeeping (so that Miami won’t) and trading the loyal Granger are some sneaky moves they did, and they haven’t paid off. Sorry, but arrogance and brutality just don’t cut it. It’s much easier to take the top spot than stay there. The team that was once tipped to win it all this season certainly looks really vulnerable, such that the Hawks, with more losses than wins this year, has taken Game 1. The Pacers today are like the LeBron-clad Heat in their first year. Poor attitude and superiority complex beckon their imminent doom, just like the Heat when they lost it all to the lowly Mavs in what everyone thought was a whitewash 2010 final for South Beach.

  3. IKE (Bulls Fan) says:

    Obviously im a Bulls fan but i love the Pacers. They are losing due to Roy Hibbert not playing seriously. He, one of the best centers in the NBA, averaged 1 rebound for the past ten+ games…. What is he doing? But i hope Atlanta wins, that way when the Bulls beat the wizards, the Bulls can sweep the Haks and focus on beating Brooklyn in the conference finals and OKC in the Finals.

  4. Lin Lord says:

    As a Philly resident, it’s my pleasure to see Indiana falling apart. The media was crowning Bird a genius for wresting Turner away for Granger, when in reality that was the move that will sink them. Turner is not exactly a head case, but he’s a selfish, disruptive, and awkward player that affects his teammates in ineffable (mostly bad) ways; we were GLAD to see him go for basically nothing. Granger, though hobbled recently, was a proud, solid character, and Indiana is missing his presence.

  5. HeatPeat says:

    Lance an Allstar?? Please he is horrible. A truely horrible baseketball player ; as long as he’s playing sig min’s with the Pacers they aren’t going anyway. He’s an athlete sure, but he’s better suited as a NFL running back: just put your head down, charge for 3 yards and a cloud of dust. If the ref’s didn’t bail players out like him, who charge recklessly to the rim with no skill and just brute force he wouldn’t have job with any NBA team. Just play defense rebound and never shoot. ever.

  6. cookie says:

    Well, Pacers now know how it feels to be at the top. Welcome to the Heat world of years in this. It isnt as easy as the Pacers thought. Welcome to NBA the real world of what it means to be Champions and everyone coming at you hard every time you play a game. Everyone got the Pacers number…..and it isnt number one ….

  7. vincent says:

    should’ve trade stephenson instead of granger

  8. grd2345 says:

    I really think this is the coaches fault. Playoff basketball is about matchups. If Hibbert can defend a big on the 3 point line, he needs to sit. It happens with Miami, San Antonio etc. It is about matchups.

  9. marty says:

    Apparent this team is struggling with adversity since they are no longer the media’s darling.

  10. Kivens says:

    I’ve read every single one of your comments guys. But the truth is Pacers, even with home court advantage, still CAN NOT BEAT THE HEAT, IF THEY HAPPEN TO MEET. MIAMI WILL DESTROY THEM BECAUSE THEY WEAKNESS IS ALREADY KNOWN TO THE HEAT

  11. Dennis Connor says:

    The Pacers need to share the ball and get each player in the game and stop playing a one man game, George and HIbbert need to be bent.

  12. aviation says:

    i think this team will get dismantled by the Bulls not the Hawks. Pacers lost because they were bad and not because the Hawks are good. Their biggest mistake was not taking it one game at a time. They already blessed themselves to go back to the ECF in a Game 7 vs. the Heat which is clearly disrespecting the process. Go HEAT!

  13. hammar says:

    Success is about losing as well as winning. So never give up no matter how bad things might appear.
    One for all and all for one. Keep going forward. Indiana will defeat the chump as well as the champ.

  14. Patrick Williams says:

    Is it just e or didn’t three out of four teams on opening playoff day lose at home? game two is a must win for The Pacers. I believe they’ll win in 6 games. even with a horrible March and beginning of April they still had the Best Home record in the NBA also lets remember they did get the number one seed over Miami.

  15. David Sanchez says:

    I live in the Northwest and am a big portland fan. I became I big fan of Indiana during the nba playoffs last year. The first thing that came to mind when I thought of the Pacers was “swag” and swag they had by the buckets. I don’t see that anymore even though I know they have it in them. I think a lot of it starts with Hibbert, the man was a force to be wrecking with, I mean we all salivated at the possibility of having him, Lamarcus and Lillard playing together when Portland made him an offer sheet. I think the coaching staff needs to show him some film on the series against Miami last year and he needs to believe what he’s capable of. As of right now, my man Hibbert seems not one but two steps too slow and that I think is trickling down and affecting their offense as a whole. Guys, let’s pump Hibbert up, he’s got it, we’ve seen it, let’s bring the swag back!

  16. Lateef Beasley says:

    You know the 2004 Pistons you speak of made a trade at the trade deadline to bring Rasheed Wallace in. And they made the ECF the previous two years. That was what put them over the top. Have to take a chance. Granger Turner trade was high risk high reward. The real problem with the Pacers isn’t that Stevenson thinks he’s the best player on the team, it’s that he IS the best player on the team. He never backs down. Pacers look scared. He doesn’t. He should have the offense worked through him. And secondly George Hill isn’t a championship PG he’ll be a liability every series….

  17. jim says:

    Totally agree with TheKush., bench IMMATURE & Arrogant Lance..Lance cannot be controlled! He cannot be unleashed either because he is not that good!. But more important is WHAT coahc Vogel should do! HE should remember that this team is very young! egos are everywhere.. he should known how to deal with the thinking, emotion and pride of these youngsters..When Bird traded the true leader of the team, Granger, Voegel should have started consulting experts on young people..They maybe are professional but their thoughts, being very young, must be addressed delicately. Each of them may not have issued statement AGAINST the trade but deep in their heart they are hurt BECAUSE THEY DON’T WANT PART WAYS WITH THEIR BIG BROTHER., THEY DON’T WANT TO PART WITH A TEAM MATE WHOM EVERYONE LISTENS, THAT IS YOUTH!!.. Coach Vogel should have known that dealing with the TRADE of Danny Granger is more important than to be the no.1 in the East.

    I like Bird as a player..but he is so stubborn and hard as president.. Remember calling his team mates “SISSY”? well he cannot have that attitude to YOUNG players as President of the team.

  18. overaffe says:

    people always forget that pacers were never an A-list team to beat until this season. They suddenly started getting highly motivated teams at every meeting. they had never experienced this before and became a bunch of complaining babies (shame on you david west). This problem is under appreciated, but will be resolved by matched level of determination. A good playoff series might bring this change. I think that unless they are upset by atlanta (leave as babies) they will meet chicago and that series will be the decider for them not the miami series. Miami are going to suffer brooklyn like malaria and if indiana come through they will not be beaten by miami, but might lose to the spurs in the final thanks to being too miami focused.

  19. It will be interesting to see how the Pacers adjust in Game 2.

  20. RJ says:

    Pacers will be ok ..they will win in five Vogel needs to start Turner and put Lance at PG and play watson and copeland more! pacers will be ok and will come out of east just watch .

  21. TheKush says:

    Hate to say this but at this point this is the coaches fault. He needs to realise the mood of the team and take control of the ship. As I’m watching the Pacers yesterday I see a problem that I’ve mentioned before regarding Turner. One of the reasons why I thought this was a bad trade is because the pacers now have 2 BIG egos to deal with. 1st one being Lance Stevenson second being Turner. Hibbert basically called out Stevenson and what does the coaching staff do they put the two of them on the same lineup. In this series the smart thing to do would be to play Hill and Watson and limit the play Stevenson. Personally I would have both Lance and Turner coming off the bench.

    Hibbert doesn’t know when he’ll get touches that’s why he looks so awkward out there. BENCH STEVENSON! Is he an Allstar? Ofcourse he is… but this why the Pacers should have kept Granger because Granger would have played his role. All of sudden Lance believes this is his team and Turner who also has an ego and also wants a big contract next season isn’t going to back down. I love Larry Bird as a PLAYER but he ruined a championship team with this last trade OKC did the same thing with Harden. I still think Indiana can make the finals but this is not a championship team. Whomever comes outta the west will eat Indiana in 6 games. >>>>>>>BENCH STEVENSON! They might be able to win with him because Atlanta’s play is inconsistent but Lance needs a reminder of his role on this team. Indiana can’t beat Miami without Hibbert.

    I think people need to stop turning on Hibbert and start understanding why Indiana was winning in the first place. Who was the person causing the most problems when Indiana was winning and who all of sudden isn’t getting the ball because one guy from Brooklyn believes that the pacers are his team. If you own or run a championship level franchise NEVER PLAY WITH CHEMISTRY!!! he 2004 Detroit never had a superstar player but once they found that chemistry with Billups, Wallace x 2, Prince and Hamilton they rode that team till the end. Indiana reminds me of that kind of team. Anyway to keep this simple BENCH STEVENSON! If he’s a starter bench him early and get Hibbert some touches rinse and repeat and this team will turn things around in a game or two!!!

  22. None Of The Above says:

    The early season Pacers you could fancy to beat anyone in the league in a series. The late season and current Pacers you could fancy to lose a series to anyone in the league. It’s like two entirely different teams.

  23. Rob says:

    The way things are going for the Pacers right now Larry Bird might get a uniform together and go out on court himself.

  24. Bill says:

    Wonder what the odds are of Larry Bird getting fed up if they lose the series and coming down from the front office to coach personally.

  25. mike says:

    typical, where is the energy & professionalism w/ this team? lately, thel look like there attending a wake,, life is good,, get a grip

  26. Axel says:

    Not too long ago – I remember well Indiana was deemed the most likely champion next to the defending one. And to large degree down to the zone being locked down by Hibbert. Miami was said not to have an answer to the great towring centre. And now? All seems to be wrong? The same guys on the court, the same team out there – and everything has changed? Yes, there is no doubt the Pacers are in a crises. I hope they find a way out there because we need them to mak life as hard as possible for the Heat. The Hawks will not be any serious opposition, the Bulls lack a real go-to-buy who can do what Lebron or D-Wade or even Ray Allen can do on the stretch. And the Nets are too old to stay with the young legs of the Heat. The Raptors lack the experience and neither the Wizzards nor the Bobcats can pose questions to the Heat. So lets hope that the Pacers can find their D again and most importantly Hibbert can get his confidence back. It’ s high noon!

  27. Zaza says:

    NOTHING EASY, NOTHING EASY, WE’RE GOING TO GAME 7!!!!

  28. okc2014 says:

    Wow. As a Hawks fan, I’ll take the win. But something is so wrong here. Can just any team beat the Pacers? Well, they obviously are not taking the playoffs seriously. I still doubt the Hawks will take this series. If they do, then the Pacers deserve an early vacation and Larry Bird needs to dismantle this team. As a basketball fan, even I’m tired of hearing them say “it was just one game”. Let’s Go Hawks! Caa Caw!

  29. Bdawg33ATL says:

    The Hawks will when because of the spacing and no one on the Pacers can keep up with Teague. The best chance for the Pacers to win is to give CJ Watson more minutes, he can’t defend Teague either but the offence runs better through him. Hawks will win in 5 if the Pacers lose the next game it will be a sweep.

  30. SoCooooool says:

    Biggest mistake of the season, trading Danny Granger. They lost all chemistry.

    Brooklyn Nets are my favorite to win the East.

  31. cheflola says:

    @FLASH3@heat

    It’s the playoffs…NOTHING is easy….it only looks easy. Yes,
    GO HEAT. But we need a major sense of urgency. Cheers….to the road of 3peat!!!!!

  32. Paul says:

    I really don’t know what happened to this team. Is it the trades and the new faces? Lack of “energy”? If Pacers lose the series vs Atlanta, they might be remembered as the weakest nr.1 seed ever… I hope that they can recover and put up a real fight for the Heat.

  33. J4CK Nicholson says:

    Peaked too soon? I hope not. But I reckon something’s not right with the Pacers right now.

  34. Jack says:

    Oh, the drama.Pacers in 5.

  35. Erwin says:

    I take my hat off to the Hawks! All that speculating. Just look forward to game 2.

  36. avy says:

    I wanna see AGAIN the look(crying B*tCh)of Lance Stephenson when they loss.

  37. MELO4LIFE says:

    What are the Bulls the Sixers?

  38. TooMuchDrama says:

    Hibbert is the problem. He is not exerting any effort on D, I guess it has something to do with team chemistry. Guy is not motivated to play D since he is not getting a lot of touches from selfish dudes in his team

  39. iamironman says:

    I can’t stand this Pacers team. All season of talk and they can’t walk the walk

  40. Brenan says:

    Regarding Antic and West double tech: David West flops and then acts all tough. Pacers are an excuse of a franchise. They’re like the Mavs before they beat the Heat, an excuse of a playoff seed. Roy Hibbert’s worth is finally being realized and the management’s moves since Game 7 2013 are only starting to be understood as downright horrible. Their bench is overrated and has no cohesion whatsoever. Bynum’s signing was the worst move; why would you target a player that was removed from his previous team because he declared he didn’t like basketball and his mentality was rubbing off on his already demotivated teammates?

  41. PatheticPacers says:

    PACERS ARE ALL BARK NO BITE TEAM.

  42. Mike says:

    Pacers lost game 1 at home to Orlando in 2012. Not really worried, Pacers in 5 ;-)

  43. theking0522 says:

    They can’t score..period..No finals or championship for them. If you can’t score in the NBA, you lose. No way they beat Miami

  44. Kome the Black Dumba says:

    Pacers in deep trouble if they lose game 2. Korver block on Hibbert was nice but don’t make a big deal out of it. How many times Shawn Bradley got blocked by shorter players in his career? PG needs to show he’s superstar material. It would be nice if Hawks can upset Pacers, always rooting for underdog.

  45. Peet says:

    Is a good start to get them pacers out of here and get themm back to training camp

  46. tom says:

    They still have HCA in the 2nd round and ECF, which was their goal of the season, not to get HCA in the first round. So not sure what this guy is talking about.

    Upper seeds lose gm 1 of series’ in the 1st round every year, and every year the media tries to make it more dramatic than it is. This playoff format has gotten stale. They should just put all 30 teams in a single game elimination tournament like college. THAT would be exciting. It would also eliminate tanking.

    This whole pretending like Indiana is in trouble drama that the league tries to do every year is lame. The Pacers will win the series and no one will even remember this game. I’m not even a Pacers fan either, but c’mon. Atlanta has no chance of winning this series and all that matters is who wins the series. Which is why all the little drama stuff in between is lame. Wake me up when there’s actually an elimnation game played and something is actually on the line. The early games of the first round are just as boring as the reg season.

    • mee(a)t says:

      This may be case if this team was like the Clippers, good all year but suffered a few mistakes in the final moments of the Warriors/Clippers game. But this isn’t the case…Indiana has been bad ever since the All Star break. Game after game they’ve made excuses for their short comings. Honestly their only highlight through that mess was beating Miami (officiating was bad) and probably OKC (and defense wasn’t all that…They just missed many uncontested shots). The Hawks this season has defeated Indiana pretty badly and it looks like Indiana still does not have an answer for the Hawks. It’ll go to 7 games cause i don’t know…benefit of the doubt.

  47. dustydreamnz says:

    My bookie offered $3.70 for the Hawks. Not bad after the way the Pacers have been going.

  48. lbj says:

    you’re right pg, you need a lot more schooling from our king this summer.

  49. Kunjaymaster says:

    A loss like the Clippers would be reasonable but losing by 20 at some point its insane. Apparently the road to the ECF will be pretty tough.

  50. FLASH3@heat says:

    HAWKS IN 5,,Heat in easy way to THE FINALS,,,

    • Sorrypacers says:

      Cant believe im saying this but i guess lbj and the crew will cruise their way to the finals if the pacers dont play like the 16-1 team at the beginning of the season.

    • LaKai_Damuho says:

      Inshalla!

    • Masa says:

      If they go on like this there will be no eastern finals … Not even semifinals …. Hibbert and West totally disappeared, only George and Stephenson playing good. I was expecting more by Watson, he is the key, henis the one has to drive the offense, not Hill.

    • iamironman says:

      Hahaha. This made me laugh! High-five!

      • james best pacer fan says:

        George Hill is soft in roy Hilbert is like a big girl man up start cj Watson put david west at center paul George at power forwad Lance Stephenson at sg Evan Turner at small forward

    • RUFIOQUIN says:

      Heat easy way to Finals huh? Yeah… I guess you’re right. They have such an easy time with Pierce and the Nets… smh

      • Miami says:

        In the 2010-2011 season, Miami lost 3-1 to the Boston Celtics during the regular season and 3-0 to the Bulls in the regular season. However in the playoffs, Miami beat Boston in 5 games and the bulls in 5 games, so don’t expect the Heat will have a tough time with the Nets just because they beat them during the regular season.