May 2, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic power forward Ryan Anderson (center) wipes his face during the second quarter against the Indiana Pacers in game three in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

A Total Team Effort

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There were points last night where it felt like last year, but I think I may have found a silver lining.  For the first 80% of last season, the Pacers were a team that was pulling apart – 15 guys that most nights seemed like they all met for the first time 30 minutes before the game.  That was clearly demonstrated with 26 double-digit losses in the first 66 games.

Last night, however, they pulled together in one regard.  No Pacer player seemed willing to show up their teammates on the floor.  OK.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that no Pacer player seemed willing to show up at all, but, I digress.  All 11 Pacers contributed to the crapulence.

Indiana had a eFG% of .354 and TS% of .389.  They were horrible at the rim, shooting only 48% including a nauseating 4-for-12 from the two point guards – Darren Collison and T.J. Ford.  I could go on, but…Ugh…a 26-point loss to Philly pretty much tells you what kind of performance the Pacers gave.  If you want more detail, you can check out Hoopdata’s Advanced Box Score.

But…this will happen.  The world didn’t end last night.  A young team felt a little too good about Saturday night’s victory, came out flat, and got run out of the building.  It happens.

Despite the fact that “it happens,” there’s at least one player that isn’t willing to accept that.  Shortly after the game last night, Roy Hibbert apologized by Twitter:

I am sorry Indiana. That was not Pacer basketball. What u saw is not acceptable and we r not gonna let this be the norm. We can do better!

Teammate Paul George re-tweeted it, and added his own sentiment simply echoing what many Pacer partisans were thinking:  “WTF?!”

Which brings me to the takeaways from last night.  The biggest is probably that this Pacer team has very little margin for error.  As I’ve said previously, there are a lot of reasons to believe in a bright future, but it’s a long way to Tipperary.  Though players like Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, or Darren Collison are capable of some incredible plays – even stretches – none can consistently or reliably dominate a game.

For this team to be good, they have to play together.  That doesn’t mean, as I joked at the top, that they all play badly at the same time.  I’ll let Roy Hibbert’s words (as given to Mike Wells) tell you what it means:

“Within two days we have become a completely different basketball team,” he said. “It was really pathetic. People have to be held accountable. We have to run the system. When we run it, we’re good. When we don’t we lose like this.”

Hibbert didn’t mention any names when talking about players being held accountable. He was upset at how the offense looked during their 26-point beat down to Philadelphia.

“We went away from what we did last game to win the game,” he said. “We didn’t play tough.  Last time we were throwing it in, cutting and moving.

He’s dead right.  If these players are going to watch, they’re going lose.

If they’re going to throw the ball into the post to Hibbert, and watch him try to bull his way to a shot, they’re going to lose.

If they’re going to watch Darren Collison or T.J. Ford (or A.J. Price) pound the ball at the top and hope for a tough pull up to go, they’re going to lose.

If they’re going to watch Danny Granger get the ball at the elbow or the top of the arc and stare at his defender before pulling up for a contested three, they’re going to lose.

They’re going to lose a lot.

We’re in the process of talking about what this season means to the individuals within the Pacer organization, but the Pacers themselves can’t lose sight of what this season is about for the team as a whole.

This season isn’t about exponential growth from Roy Hibbert or Darren Collison or Paul George or any of the other young guys.  It’s not about Larry Bird’s team-building skills or Jim O’Brien’s vindication or damnation.  It’s not about Danny proving he’s a perennial All Star, or Mike Dunleavy and T.J. Ford proving their worth going into free agency.

This season is about the core of the team growing together as a team to form a foundation.  The lessons will be hard, and sometimes they will be humiliating.  Doesn’t matter.  These players have to learn them, and learn them well.

The Pacers need to accomplish one thing this season:  They need to stop being “these players” and become “this team.” Failing this will make any and all other successes achieved this year transitory.

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Tags: Game Recap Roy Hibbert

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