Pacers’ title dreams fading fast

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: Jeff Teague knocks down the shot of the night in the Hawks’ win over the Pacers

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — As much as this moment is about Jeff Teague and his improbable shot (and the shrug that followed it), Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll, and the feisty spirit of the worst team (on paper) in the playoffs choking the daylights out of the best team (on paper) in the Eastern Conference, it’s not.

Not yet.

The Atlanta Hawks have to wait to get their due. They won’t get the credit they deserve for dealing what could be a death-blow to the Indiana Pacers’ season and their fading championship dreams because the demise of coach Frank Vogel‘s team is that epic.

Startling doesn’t do the Pacers’ free-fall justice. Not now. Not after you watch them get taken apart the way they did Thursday night in a 98-85 loss at Philips Arena by a Hawks team that didn’t have to play great to beat them. The Hawks did make 10 of their 18 second-half 3-pointers.  And they had their way with the Pacers off the dribble, cashing in with 37 free-throw attempts. But they only shot 38 percent and got outrebounded by 10.

And yet, they were still the tougher team when it mattered. They certainly played well enough to shatter whatever is left of the false sense of confidence the Pacers packed for this road trip.

“It feels out of character for us to play this way,” Pacers All-Star Paul George said of his team’s scattered effort. “We can’t get comfortable with this, especially if we have a dream of winning it all. We have to be much tougher than what went on out there tonight. Our toughness in questionable right now, to say the least.”

As much as this series is about the Hawks and their Cinderella story — the only team in the playoffs with a losing record leading the top team in the conference 2-1 as a huge Saturday afternoon Game 4 looms that could push the Pacers over the edge — it’s about the nightmare the Pacers will endure if things continue the way they have for 10 of the 12 quarters these teams have played so far.

This is about Vogel and 7-foot-2 All-Star center Roy Hibbert, the biggest man in the series who has come up the smallest (3-for-16 from the floor the past two games). Vogel tried to say the right things after yet another disappearing act from his center. He proclaimed his confidence in Hibbert. He called him his team’s anchor and said he hadn’t lost faith in him. But he stopped short of saying that Hibbert would be in the starting lineup for Game 4.

“We’ll look at everything,” Vogel said. “Can’t say that right now, but I have confidence in Roy Hibbert. He hasn’t played well to this point, but I do have confidence … we’re not going to quit on him. I know that. We’re going to keep working with him and try and figure it out. We’ll see. He’s our anchor, we won 56 games with him as our starter and that’s the simplest answer.”

Can they win three more with him as the starter in this series? Hibbert has scored a grand total of 18 points (yes, you read that right) in the series and hasn’t recorded a single block. He’s had just one double-digit rebound game in his last 27 outings. That’s not the sort of production any team expects from its highest-paid player.

“We’ve all tried to talk to him and keep him confident,” David West said. “It’s hurting him. He wants to help us and he wants to play well. He’s hard on himself. We’ve got to figure out a way to get him involved. He’s got figure out a way to get himself involved. It’s a long playoff series, so we’re not going to panic. We came down here to get one game and that’s what we’re intending to do.”

Whether or not they’ll do it with Hibbert playing a major role remains to be seen. Ian Mahinmi played the final five minutes and 30 seconds of the third quarter in Hibbert’s place and Luis Scola played the entire fourth quarter as Hibbert sat on the bench.

When pressed one last time about whether or not he’ll keep Hibbert in that first five, Vogel still wouldn’t give a definitive answer.

“We’ll see,” he said, “… probably.”

There isn’t much time to deliberate. Pacers boss Larry Bird was caught on camera with his face buried in his hands during one disastrous possession early on in the game. It’s an appropriate reaction and gesture for the Pacers’ entire body of work since the All-Star break.

A 33-8 record at the halfway point of the season has morphed into pure chaos on and off the floor. They’ve crumbled under the weight of expectations at nearly every turn, every triumph meet with a corresponding hiccup.

Earlier Thursday George admitted that the Pacers had gotten full of themselves after that great start. They foolishly believed their own hype before recognizing that there was another half of the season to be played and that they’d do so as the hunted and not the hunter.

“We were competing with Miami and chasing that No. 1 seed instead of just building habits and focusing on ourselves and becoming a better team,” George said. “I think that’s where we got off track and what led us down this road.”

The road could come to an end much sooner than expected for the Pacers, long before that Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals they hunted for so long.

That’s why as much as this should be about the Hawks and what they’ve accomplished, to this point, it just can’t be … not with the tire fire that the Pacers’ season has become.

63 Comments

  1. wuffe says:

    U take out stephenson and put in a young granger … and oh ohhhhh. Granger was a glue guy at small forward. George Hill is just fine. Can you imagine what a young Joe Johnson could do for Indiana at small forward as opposed to Stephnson. He’s too much of a hot head.

  2. ChiefKillua says:

    indiana team is over-rated though they got the topseed..it isnt enough for them to hold on to the eastern finals..maybe even round 1 of the playoffs..miami is laughin at you now with wide grin..( am not a miami fan)..if atlanta makes 3-1 lead..then this team is a big joke.. peace bro ..

    • bunbury says:

      adversity can be good. if they can resolve whatever problems they have right now, it will be a bless in disguise. Then they will be ready for the Heat. how many teams have we seen struggling at first, then just getting better as the playoffs continue? not many but it has happened– rockets 1995; celtics 2008

  3. overaffe says:

    im not that bothered about whether the pacers totally spaz out the play-offs. I think vogel is a great coach but he is not controlling even semi-good players like stevenson, saying we want lance to be lance??? shut up lance, do your job or i’ll ruin your career- what he should have said. I wanted them to beat miami this year because that would have broken them up, but i think there real shot at a title is next year. If they go out early Vogel gets fired and maybe say hello to George Karl. He might just make this team the best in the league, although Larry’s indiana hero ego, might get in the way of that signing.

  4. BigRon86 says:

    This isn’t hibbert series but this isn’t his fault. The pacers need a point guard a real point guard. George Hill was 1-11 he doesn’t have a natural feel for pace. Let me say something else lance Stephenson should play more he is lite aggressive and can create others. The pacers are fighting what works. They go on runs when hibbert is on the bench and lance and George and Scola are on the floor together

  5. Tim MoTee ATL says:

    HOLD UP! Were are my HAWKS FANS! We are simply outplaying the pacers! Its not a epic failure on indy’s part! We beat them in the first half of the year, on the road, by double digits as well! They jusy cant match up with Our bigs and our floor spacing. That simple!!!!!! WE ARE A GREAT TEAM WE PLAY TOGETHER PACERS AREN’T
    HAWKS 4-1

  6. Let's go Heat! says:

    Whether Pacers can survive in 1st round or not, Heat will go to Final again this yr. Heat’s main challenge is Nets, but NEVER Pacers…Time to wake up!!!

  7. Go Miami.pl says:

    I’ve kept saying it for a while… and I say it again… Paul George will never ever be a superstar like LBJ, KD, Kobe and even D-Wade are… and Hibbert is lot worse than my man Marcin Gortat,

  8. Game Ball says:

    @William What??? Hibbert Concussion??? Where??? Hibbert is a not real bigman not even close… Chalmers can out rebound him every single game… Atlanta should thank the HEAT for showing them how to chop down towering hibbert… HASLEM showed them HOW… Haslem destroyed hibbert literally, And that became the biggest loop hole on the pacers…. If UD can do it, Milsap can do it too…. so far it really affect roy’s game… and I’m a bit confused too, he’s 7’2″ tall but somehow he rebounds like a point guard…. sorry like an average point guard….

  9. Toy says:

    I just want to bring this up. The Pacers were built to knock off the Miami Heat. That’s it. First off all, Indiana Pacers have not faced what the Heat have faced since the LBJ, DWade & Bosh join together. Every team has played the Heat like its game 7 of the NBA finals. Every team has played there very best against the Heat. So, the Heat has seen it & faced it all. Something that the Pacers have not experienced. The Pacers were so focused on building to beat the Heat, but they forgot about the 29-30 other teams besides them selves & Miami. Thinking that the NBA teams are only them, Pacers & Heat. They have forgotten that the rest of the NBA teams are getting bigger, stronger, faster, smarter & more prepared, to knock off the Heat also. Sorry INDY, like the fans were chanting last night after the game, “OVER RATED”

  10. VB says:

    Roy Hibbert = the new Andris Biedrins ?

    • Kunjaymaster says:

      He is not the new anything, it’s a match up problem he has to go outside and guard the 3 point line in the defensive end. Now in the offensive end Atlanta is packing the paint and when you have Hill scoring 4 and Paul George scoring 6 they have no way to stretch the floor, so Hibbert is trying to score over 2 and 3 people in the paint. I tell ya they didn’t see this coming and at this point I think the Heat have a pretty high chance of making out of the East again.

  11. stan weier says:

    The P.R people for the NBA in their attempt to create a new Überstar in Paul George, together with the referee panel who have clearly created an agenda to allow the Pacers room for negotiation in the way they defend, must take the blame for taking away the possibility for organic growth by this team. The team obviously began to feel entitled to more than their fair share of wins due to a winning concept they had not nurtured. The Hibbert rules of vertical basket protection (allowed particularly against Lebron James) coupled with over indulging Stephenson tantrum style basketball is now beginning to explode in their faces. These Pacers are not the resilient bunch of hard nosed do anything for the win blue collar die to win professionals they were while lead by Reggie Miller (Granger actually was ready to go fist up against lebron yet his the one they let go) or will they ever be the bad boys of Detroit. The elbow Hibbert took from Lebron was a message delivered to the NBA and to the pacers alike, “ if we have to break Hibbert to get by you, so will it be” obviously Hibbert has been the reason why these pacers were causing such trouble for any team they met. It has been the focus of every team playing against the Pacers to solve Hibbert rendering Indiana ordinary. Paul George is no Superstar, the pacers have no superstar, they lost their darling of America status with their display of arrogance and how stupid they should feel in trading a guy they never gave a fair chance to Gerald Green, who in my estimation will win a championship before Indian does. The State of Indiana deserves a great team but the dismal failure of this one will be hard to rebound from. AND PLEASE STOP CALLING PAUL GEORGE A SUPERSTAR, he is nothing but a stone amongst rocks.

  12. 0911_DI says:

    The keyword throughout this article is “dream”. Dreams do not always come true and the Pacers are realizing that as we speak. The Pacers down 2-1 isn’t all that surprising, they haven’t played championship basketball in quite some time. They showed us in the 1st half of the season that they showed promise but that’s where the line stopped. Hawks 4-2.

  13. ciugaz says:

    It’ s true that Paul George is not making the difference, but the biggest problem for Indiana now is to have some players (Hibbert, Turner and Hill) that are not even able to stay on the court, and this is affecting the whole team…Pacers need to get them back on track.

  14. TROYBOY says:

    The Pacers are horrible right now and people all over is looking for somebody to blame. I think if this series goes to seven, it ‘ll be a good thing for them.

    I think they need to reestablish themselves and do it fast. I hear a lot of people saying that they need to change the way they play. That is the stupidest thing I’ve heard. Play one way in the regular season and then do something else during the playoffs. The more they play should help them. If they can’t do that, then they don’t desrve to move on. This series is very important to their quest for a title. But they have to be true to themselves. Play defense and reestablish Roy Hibbert. If they can do that before they get to Miami then they should ok.

    Play one way in the regular season and another in the playoffs doesn’t really make any sense to me. I guess time can only tell.

  15. William says:

    Hibbert hasn’t played the same since Lebron elbowed him in the face.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if he got a concussion.

  16. No_lpogs says:

    Haha… It will be the year of the Raps… Heat vs Raptors in Eastern finals… Put that on the shirt…

  17. BonnieBear29 says:

    Lol at guys saying it’s Bynum’s fault. Do you even watch the games? Bynum hasn’t played in over a month.

  18. marty says:

    This squad is playing without confidence.No leadership and everything is one on one.U gotta start with the HC who was anointed as great but can’t push the right buttons.

  19. swaggyP says:

    turner&bynum Over Danny Granger..what a big loss to pacers…:(

  20. Rangers says:

    Blaming Paul George doesn’t make sense. If you actually look at the series’ stats, then you will realize PG is leading team in: ppg,rebpg, Astpg, def rtg, off rtg, and gamescore.

    Hubert/hill/rest of bench have bench extremely bad.

  21. Reymon de Guzman says:

    It’s funny how Hibbert called out his teammates by saying that there are “Some selfish dudes here”. As a Pacers fan, the only selfish dude I see right now is him because his play is truly hurting the Pacers in more ways than one. Coach Vogel must do what’s necessary and bench Hibbert if they want to advance. However, Hibbert must understand that if he is benched, it’s not something against him personally, but rather, he is being benched because of his very poor performance.

  22. Gio says:

    Paul George’s gotta stand out for the Pacers man this is not gonna work if they keep playing this way

  23. flip says:

    This all started when Paul found out he got that girl preganant

  24. sally says:

    Trying to get all that ammo (Bynum, etc) to beat the Miami Heat, just screwed up their chemistry and did them in. They will go nowhere now. Paul George is supposed to be a super star ??? that’s all I’ve heard since the season started, PG, PG, PG, and what a wonderful player he is…..all that hype. Well where is he ??? the same with Hibbard, they thought because they were the # 1 seed that’s all it took to get to the top, well think again ya’all, it did you no good at all. You should never count your chickens before they hatch….for sure. The Hawks are going to tromp all over them ……Watch !!! Go Heat !!!!

  25. Jr. Samples says:

    This has to be a reflection of soft coaching. Soft coaching equals soft players.

  26. robbycater says:

    We will will game 4….put it on a T-shirt

  27. robbycater says:

    We will win game 4. I repeat we WILL win game 4, put it on a T-shirt

  28. Coach D says:

    Seriously, Pacers have no offense. Frank Vogel is the reason they are losing. It’s all individual, stop start, stagnating. Roy Hibbert has no idea where he’s supposed to be and gets in everyone’s way. Imagine if Pop coached this team!

  29. Josh says:

    Where is George??? I’m sorry but you cant be a legitimate SUPERSTAR with inconsistent displays, if the Pacers are to win, George needs to step up! He’s played ok in the 2 previous games, but a SUPERSTAR can not have a 12 point game in the playoffs, just look at Aldridge, Lebron, Griffin, Durant (Although OKC are poor also) all these TEAM LEADERS are putting up the numbers when it matters. PG needs to do this too for the pacers to win, only then can he be called Legit! Ok Hibbert needs to sort himself out, as do some of the others, but George needs to lead by example. The last team to win a Champoinship without a HUGE star was Pistons a few years back, theres a reason for that, because the playoffs is where superstars are made!! George needs to be that Superstar!

  30. Fabergear says:

    The Pacers have been playing poorly for some weeks now, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that they are struggling in the first round of playoffs.

  31. G says:

    Even if a big man gets less touches he still should have 10-15 rebounds. Hibbert just is “the weakes link” at this moment so take him out, put West @ the 5 and Scola at 4.

    Hibbert can get his confidence back coming off the bench. There is no shame in that!

  32. John says:

    Lance Stephenson’s play is destructing the Pacers. Yeah, he can score. But because of this, Roy has limited possessions in the offensive end. I don’t think it’s Roy’s fault. The X-factor in this series has to be GEORGE HILL. He shoull score. Put pressure on Teague at both ends of the floor.

  33. Ok this is starting 2 look ugly & very unespected. But down 2-1 there a still lots of scenarios possible.

    Im not sure if Danny Granger was still around he would make the difference. But with Roy Hibbert struggling big time I would like to know what an almost healthy Andrew Bynum would have done for the Pacers…..He played a few games for them & was looking quite effective to me. Mahinmi is just not as good as both of them.

    Pacers really need a solid big man in the paint if they meet the Heat in the ECF to stand a chance. But the ECF is far for them at the moment. Not need to discuss this yet.

    PS would be a no brainer to fire Frank Vogel if the Hawks beat them.

  34. Juvz says:

    is danny granger laughing at them now? Why did Larry Bird messed up his teams chemistry when they are playing at a highest level early in the season? They could have waited the season to end before trading granger. They are too greedy and now they suffer from it. And oh, I remember Andrew Bynum who was sign by them to keep him away from the heat… greedy man… greedy….

  35. sorry says:

    Moral lesson: It’s not good to be OVER-CONFIDENT. With the way they played this playoffs against a supposedly weaker team (Hawks), all i can say is “Go FISHING”.

  36. Miami says:

    If the Pacers lose this series or not even make it to the NBA finals, what will they do? This will be devastating to there organization!

    • kek says:

      With the whay they are playing they would have been crushed by miami, washington, toronto and brooklyn, im not seeing them even making the ECF. Atlanta is not a good team, would be ambarrasing if they lost to them.

  37. hammar says:

    Never give up that is what faith teaches us. That is the spirit that rises within us.
    Pacers will win.

  38. Snickers says:

    Their preparation is for the Heat not on other teams.

    • WillGee says:

      Snickers I so agree with you, everyone has based the Pacers success off them giving the Heat trouble,the only reason for that is because Miami is soft on the inside, but they have so much skill in miami which makes up for it.

  39. Kram says:

    So long …Pacers – Heat matchup
    It will be others against Heat.
    Granger pitty on Pacers.

  40. WTF123 says:

    its just all started when they trade Granger

    • Pepe says:

      Yes, it all started when they lose Granger and bring in Andrew Bynum. Paul George was crushed when they let go of Granger, and Bynum destroys team chemistry as we know it. (Referring to Cleveland)

      • dwade333 says:

        What r u talkin bout Bynum only played they won n he played great n u sayin that he messed dem up he only played twice dummy

      • dwade333 says:

        What r u talkin bout Bynum only played they won n he played great n u sayin that he messed dem up he only played twice if anything its E.T dat messin dem up

      • WillGee says:

        I think trading Granger was foolish, but for the last few seasons the Pacers have come into their own, but all the hype the media and fans have given finally went to their heads they play so selfish on offense and expect teams to back off cause they have Hibbert in the middle.Bynum was pointless to sign, hints why the cavaliers and sixers did not want him.

    • DWadeTheOne says:

      Agreed. It all started when they let go Granger. Better luck for them next year.

  41. cry says:

    “all we need is homecourt advantage to win it all” lol!

    • Pakyaw says:

      They build their roster to beat miami, but they forgot the other team.. Unleash Bynum !…

  42. Paul says:

    The Pacers have the potential to be the weakest nr.1 seed in NBA history. Such a dissapointment so far…

  43. Jkwon says:

    Pacers have no answers for hawks ..

  44. Jkwon says:

    If if hawks win ( bye bye to coach frank )

  45. Kram says:

    Pacers are tired and exhausted. Not enough energy for the playoffs.
    Better luck next season. 3 wins for Pacers is a shot to the moon.

  46. Kopogero says:

    Crushing the Pacers is just the beginning for Hawks!