In the summer of 1975, the movie “Jaws” hit the theaters to huge box office success. It was no longer safe to go in the water. Since this is a “me, too!” society, the natural result was a flurry of copycat Man-vs.-Beast flicks, mostly varying degrees of schlock.
As a skittish 9-year old, the flurry of commercials not only made me afraid of the water, the woods, and basically any living thing that inhabited them, they also made me deathly afraid of commercials. I learned the opening tones of all the commercials, instinctively bolting from the room, diving under the covers, or screwing my eyes shut as tightly as I could.
If you’re wondering why I’m babbling on about this, there are a couple of reasons. First, the longer I talk about this, the longer I can delay talking about the game. Second, one of the copycat movies was a particularly large turd called “Grizzly.”
As I watching the end of the second quarter last night, I was reminded of that movie, those commercials, and that sudden urge to hide my eyes and plug my ears. The signs were there. The Pacers, on the verge of taking control of the game, started to make those little mistakes that are equivalent of the opening strains of the commercials’ theme.
Dahntay Jones steps to the line to take two free throws that would have given the Pacers their first double digit lead. It would have represented a 22-point turnaround in a little less than 18 minutes of game time. After falling behind 19-8, the Pacers had outscored the Griz 48-28. The momentum was theirs, and they had a chance to get a stronger grip.
Instead, for the second time in as many games, Dahntay misses both and leaves the Pacers exposed. Sixty six seconds and two putrid offensive possessions later, Indiana heads to the locker room up only five and looking decidedly shaky.
My inner 9-year old was telling me to cower under the covers, but the infinitely more delusional inner Pacer fan kept me with it. Any of the linked recaps above will detail what happened next. Brand new nightmares were created as the Pacers opened the third by basically puking all over their shoes. Mike Dunleavy missing three straight free throws was the gratuitous “jump out of the shadows” scare, but the real gore was at the 5:48 mark.
Exhibiting a voyeuristic bent, nine NBA players (5 Grizzlies and 4 Pacers) stared with the same slack-jawed, glassy-eyed expression evident of a horror movie patron as Jeff Foster received the ball above the top of the key. The Pacers offense seemed frozen, like so many victims of movie monsters, (though honestly, it could be argued that the Pacer Offense’s natural state is frozen) leaving Jeff to desperately heave a 20-foot jumper before he was eaten by the shot clock. The results were predictably tragic – a mother and her two small children in the first row were maimed by the errant projectile.
It was at that point, with the Pacers down 12, that my inner 9-year old had finally bludgeoned the starry-eyed Pacer fan into submission and took control of the remote.
The 9-year old switched to something much more cheery and less gruesome: the second season of “Dexter” on DVD.
So, I’d love to deconstruct what happened the rest of the game, but I only watched glimpses after that. I tracked it on the box score for a while, then foolishly returned to see Buckaroo Banzai hit three freebies to cut it to six. Naturally, the monster was not really dead, and the delusional Pacer fan in me died screaming as Zach Randolph blocked Buckaroo’s shots not once, but twice on the same possession.
In any case, the game was informative in terms of warning signs, so I’ll give you a few, so you can watch for these in future games:
- Pacer players making “iffy” shots – Both Dahntay Jones and T.J. Ford were getting buckets last night, but they were the type that any defense would will live with them taking. Ford was making challenged pull ups, just a couple feet outside of his comfort zones. Dahtnay dropping J’s from just inside the arc. Defenses will win in the long run, if that’s how the Pacers are scoring.
- Low assist total – In the first half, the Pacers were assisting on fewer than half of their makes, and T.J. Ford had none. For the game, they had only 15 assists on 35 FG’s, and Ford finished with only one in 23 minutes.
- No Joy for Troy – Over the last four games, T-Murda has shot just over 60% from the floor, including 10-21 from three. Last night, Troy got collared on five shots. With Troy, his bad shooting nights are almost always mechanical. It’s true with both his three’s and his free throws. His timing gets off, and he ends up putting too much wrist into the shot, making it flat and short. In other words, you an usually tell early when he’s going to have a bad night.
- High number of “Oh, man” plays - These are those plays where success for the Pacers is tantalizingly close, then just slips away. The dagger three that rims in-and-out. The great defensive possession that ends in a cheap foul or somebody making an impossible shot. The crazy bounces on the loose balls that always go to the opponent. There were a ton of these in the second quarter last night.
- That “nagging” feeling – Yeah, it’s nebulous, but you know it. It’s the sense that the Pacers should be leading by much more than they really are…or, you can’t figure out why they aren’t down by more. That’s a sure sign that they aren’t getting enough mileage out of their play. It almost never turns out well.
The Pacers are not a very good team. They still don’t have anyone who can protect the rim defensively, and without Danny Granger, they are down one of the few guys who can actually hit shots on a semi-regular basis. Mike Dunleavy has played well, but you can see the conditioning is still not there yet.
For as long as these facts are true, they will remain a team walking through a league full of carnivores wearing uniforms made out of pork chops. They’ve got to learn that their only hope of survival is to keep moving.
The Pacer offense has turned many games this season into gory horror flicks. Until they figure out to keep the motion constant, we should probably expect more sequels.