I’ve seen this movie before and I know how it ends.
These are the games a team is supposed to win if it wants to have any success in the future.
Instead, the Pacers fell at home on Friday night to the Milwaukee Bucks, dropping their record to 2-3. They have lost two games in a row against teams that they should defeat. First they lost to the 76ers, then they lost to a Bucks team at home that had just suffered a tough overtime loss in Boston on Wednesday.
They still had their chances earlier in the game.
Darren Collison and Danny Granger led the team in scoring with 19 points apiece. Granger also pulled in nine rebounds, but he had no assists and seven turnovers. Roy Hibbert chipped in with 14 points, 12 rebounds, six blocks and six turnovers. He also led the team in assists with four. The team as a whole only had 11 assists in the entire game. Not exactly perfect offensive execution. 19 turnovers and just 11 assists is a recipe for defeat.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Pacers led by two after the first quarter, by eight at halftime and by six at the end of the third quarter, but eventually fell apart in the fourth.
You could see this mountain on the schedule when it was released. The first five games looked like a quiz. The rest of the month resembles an SAT. November is going to be brutal. If the Pacers somehow enter December with a near .500 record, I will be very surprised.
Beginning with their next game November 9, they will play host to the Denver Nuggets and the Houston Rockets. They will then make the short trip to Cleveland to play an angry Cavalier squad. After that they return home for three games, but each game will come against superior talent, in the Atlanta Hawks, L.A. Clippers and the Orlando Magic.
The Pacers will then take their talents to South Beach to face LeBron, Wade and the Miami Heat. They return home after that, but then they will face the Cavs again and the rising Oklahoma City Thunder.
That begins a grueling West coast trip, during which they face the defending Champion L.A. Lakers, Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns. It will be tough to win half those games, but at least most of them will be at home.
Though the Pacers suffered a tough loss on Friday night, at least they weren’t embarrassed like they were in Philly. The game went down to the wire, but the Pacers still lost the way they always seem to: with turnovers and bad defense.
I suppose there is a silver lining if you look close enough. There is one thing I see now that I haven’t seen for years here in Indianapolis: emotional players in the locker room after a loss. The perception surrounding this team for the last few years is that the players knew the team wasn’t very good, so they just showed up to play ball and pick up their paychecks. After the 82nd game of the season, it was time to party.
I don’t get that vibe with this team. After the Pacers got throttled by the 76ers in Philadelphia this past Wednesday, Roy Hibbert took great responsibility for the loss. Although he wasn’t the only one that played poorly (the entire team was to blame), he talked about how disappointed he was and how he felt that they had taken a few steps backwards. If there is one word that sums up my opinion of Hibbert this year, it would be commitment.
Roy has become a leader for this team, perhaps even taking over as the face of the franchise (sorry Granger). Depending on your perception of Danny Granger, that could be a good thing. Everyone knows Granger can score. Everyone recognizes his offensive skills and what he means to this team. Everyone knows he is a very good player, an outstanding number two, just not quite a number one.
While Granger sometimes is unwilling to step into the spotlight on his own, Hibbert has made it a point this year that he wants to be one of the best centers in the game today, and that he is all about the success of the team. No disrespect to Granger, but I think even he would tell you that Roy is a better leader right now for this team.
At the end of the day, the Pacers sit at 2-3, and the two victories aren’t exactly marquee wins. The team is facing the same problems it had for the last four or five years: poor defense, careless offense and bad coaching. Until there is a front office change, things just aren’t going to change. There are different players with different talents, yet the results remain the same. I’m looking at you, Coach.