It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
But mostly, yeah, it just sort of sucked.
I actually dozed off on the couch pretty early in the second half of the Timberwolves game on Saturday (perhaps subconsciously forcing unconsciousness so I didn’t have to watch the inevitable Minnesota comeback?), so the first game of the weekend seemed to be, to me, a giant success.
Those first 24 minutes were by far the best I’ve seen the Pacers play so far this year.
But no matter how well you play in the first two quarters of a game, if you let a 28-point half-time lead turn into a 4-point lead with a minute to play, your performance doesn’t deserve too much praise. Sure, any win that breaks an 8-game losing streak is an overwhelming success, but it would have been nice to see the team be able to step on the collective throat of such a bad team when they had them lying on the ground so battered and ready to die.
(On average, Minnesota scores 10.3 fewer points per game than their opponents, a number only worsted by New Jersey’s 10.7 points fewer. By comparison, the Pacers are also atrocious at 28th in the league in margin of victory, but still “only” score 6.3 ppg less than their opponents. In short, the T-Wolves are really, really, really bad.)
I can’t add any perspective to the dismal second half, but the team played about as well as it possibly could in the first half. Everyone scored a ton and the ball movement was blissful. The jumpers were flowing like wine and everyone from Roy Hibbert to Dahntay Jones was scoring around the hoop.
So even if the game turned back into normal stand-around slog ball on offense and the defense started to allow all kinds of easy buckets, the first half at least gives the team some good film to watch and build off. They at least have some tangible evidence to look at and say “Hey, maybe we can actually score points if we pass well, move around and take good shots.”
Because that first half was great. It was a joyous occasion.
Something that was decidedly not a joyous occasion, however? Last night’s game with the Knicks.
I actually went to Madison Square Garden for that giant waste of time and had there not been a special $9 Beer Night going, I probably would have left even earlier than I did. The line of the night came in the late third quarter (right around the time Pacers were falling down by 40) when I overheard a fan who was clearly upset he paid money to attend this game say “I know Reggie Miller left, but still.”
That pretty much sums it up.
And, unfortunately, much like the first half of the Minnesota game, there really isn’t a lot else to analyze, so I’m not going to waste your time pretending there is. The Knicks drove into the paint with such ease that, five minutes into the game, the whole New York lineup was so comfortable and empowered on offense that every jumper started to go down. The Pacers defense rotated so poorly that almost none of these shots were contested, which was particularly negligent since the team also closed out so poorly that they were beat off the dribble countless times by a simple pump fake or hesitation. Neither one is acceptable, but if you’re giving up wide-open jumpers you should at least not get beat off the dribble, too.
Good teams protect the perimeter and the paint. Bad teams should be able to at least protect one or the other. If you can’t protect either, you’re just not trying.
One thing I do need to note, however, is that Roy Hibbert in particular was an embarrassment. Al Harrington penetrated from the perimeter several times only to be met by Hibbert. And it appeared that all it took to make Roy completely lose all sense of balance or proper defensive positioning was an eyebrow fake from Al. David Lee also walked right by Roy on several occasions, which were eerily similar to the many times he was smoked by Brad Miller the other day.
Of course, the most egregious embarrassment came when Danilo Gallinari drove the lane and victimized Hibbert with an insane facial. That play pretty much summed up Hibbert’s night defensively.
To be fair, of course, that play wasn’t something we can put on Roy individually since Mike Dunleavy and Josh McRoberts should both be just as embarrassed about the “defense” they played on Danilo out on the perimeter. Obviously that play was simply a collective failure to defend in the half court.
And ultimately, that’s all this game was: a collective failure to compete.
So I’ll spare you any more reading on a game that didn’t even deserve watching let along reading (or writing) about, and just leave you with this highlight of The Rooster going cock-a-doodle-doo all over Hibbert’s dome.