Last night, during the game, I tweeted this:
Game #14 Recap: Dallas Good, Pacers Bad
I cannot tell you how tempting it is to simply go with that. Really, when it comes down to it, that’s pretty much the core of what happened last night.
Dallas is a team with two future Hall of Famers surrounded by some talented and athletic role players. They have Rick Carlisle, and appear to still be in the period of their relationship with him where his excellent basketball mind still eclipses his utter inability to run a locker room. They are establishing themselves as serious contenders, equipped with a very potent offense and a solid defense.
The Pacers, on the other hand, are a team that has one injured and struggling All-Star, surrounded by a cast of poorly matched role players. While I am of the opinion that O’Brien has done a generally good job here, he is basically a middle of the road coach. He’s not going to greatly enhance (or impair) the talent he has at hand.
The Pacers 113-92 loss to the Mavericks last night was not damaging in and of itself. Even at home, a team of the Pacers’ quality is generally reduced to hoping for a win against a team of Dallas’ quality, as opposed to expecting a win. The problem is the way they lost.
With the possible exception of about a five-minute flurry towards the end of the first half, your Indiana Pacers were completely and irredeemably uncompetitive. They rarely attacked at either end, and they got pounded on the glass 54-33. They settled for jump shot after jump shot. After having only 2 turnovers in the first half, they piled up 13 in the second. Despite the fact that Dallas was credited with five second half steals, I cannot for the life of me remember a single Pacer turnover that wasn’t unforced. Dallas recorded some impressive defensive stats, but they accomplished it largely by watching the Pacers miss a lot of rushed jump shots.
Last night’s 21-point loss marked the seventh time in eight losses that the margin was double digits. That’s almost half of last year’s total, and we’re barely one-sixth of the way into the season. Eleven of the Pacers 14 games have been decided by double digits, compared to a league low 24 last season.
It would be nice to agree that this team is Jekyll-and-Hyde, as Danny Granger termed it a couple of days ago. But it is really more Heckle and Jeckle. If you look at the season as a whole, it’s not a case of either playing unbelievably well or unbelievably poorly. It’s really a case of some unbelievably poor play peppered with a hot quarter or half here or there against weaker competition. To my recollection, they have not put together four good quarters once this season, though they have strung together a lot of bad quarters.
Too often, this team seems to collapse under their own frustrations. Bad breaks almost always snowball into a run for the other team. They seem very fragile, as if they’re about to shatter at any moment. Some of this could be coaching, and some could be the injuries giving players more responsibility than they’re prepared to handle.
However, I think a lot of it is simply a void in leadership within the roster. Danny, while a great guy, simply doesn’t have the temperament to be a team leader. This is actually true of everyone on that team. There are far too many passive personalities. This is where the team really misses Jarrett Jack.
Many believe that Dahntay Jones has filled JJ’s shoes admirably, even exceeding him. I am not one of them. I like Dahntay a great deal, and I think he is going to be a valuable player for this team during the transition. I love the attitude he brings to the team, and I think he has some fine leadership qualities. However, he seems to bring a different type of energy than Jarrett. Now, clearly I don’t have first hand access to the locker room, so this is speculation, but Dahntay seems more confrontational than JJ (the row with TJ notwithstanding.) The energy from the team and in the locker room was much more positive last season, and I’m forced to conclude that Jarrett Jack was a big part of that.
Sometime this weekend, the Pacers will depart for a four-game Western swing. This is perhaps the most forgiving trip out West I’ve ever seen, playing four teams with a combined winning percentage of .443 as of this morning. They’re going to need to take this time and this trip to get their collective act together, or this season’s going to get away from them in a hurry.
- Mike Dunleavy was strong in his return. It took him exactly 16 seconds to get his first bucket, cutting strong to the basket and receiving a pretty feed from Jeff Foster. He was on the floor for the last few minutes of the second, when the Pacers cut a 22-point lead down to 9. He finished with 13 points in 16 minutes.
- If you’re watching to see who’s losing minutes to Dunleavy, last night’s blowout might not be a great indicator due to the extensive garbage time. Dahntay finished with 25 minutes, 9 below his season average, and Brandon Rush played 27.
- Buckaroo Banzai (Tyler) had a promising performance cut short last night, when he missed the second half with a bruised knee. He finished with 4 points, 5 boards, and a couple of assists in his 8 minutes. There was no word after the game as to how badly he was hurt.
- The home crowd expressed their displeasure with the Pacers’ performance, booing loudly for turnovers and missed shots throughout the second half.
- Perhaps the Pacers should have known it wasn’t going to be their night at the end of the first quarter. Jason Terry launched a three that slammed off the backboard bounced directly to a member of the Lollipop Guild who had somehow managed to wander onto the court. The munchkin promptly picked it up and drained a three at the buzzer.
“We represent the Dallas Mavericks. The Dallas Mavericks. The Dallas Mavericks. And in the name of the Dallas Mavericks, we wish to let you know we kicked your ass!” (From L to R: Rodrigue Beaubois, Jason Terry, JJ Barea)