The Pacers gave Phoenix an early Christmas gift last night, and I jotted off a quick recap noting that Indy lost the game by re-enacting several of their bad old habits. One thing I mentioned specifically was that the starting Power Forward, Josh McRoberts, had a game where he scored, got a lot of rebounds, and hit threes. I also noted that he got torched by the guy he was guarding, Channing Frye. The entire riff was a snarky allusion to McRoberts — touted by many fans as the anti-Murphy – basically playing like Troy Murphy.
In this morning’s Indianapolis Star, Mike Wells reported a few choice comments made by Jim O’Brien expressing his displeasure about how his team had played last night. In part, Jim said:
“It had nothing to do with the guy guarding him. It’s how we were supposed to go under pick-n-rolls and how were going to go up and through screens.”
Watching the game again … well, watching the game again gave me indigestion, but I digress. Watching the game again showed that many of Frye’s open looks were the result of bad rotations, not — as I thought — the result of Josh ball-gawking and getting lost. Not only was Josh not guilty in those instances, but he was actually the victim. In a defense that is dependent on the players being “tied together” and doing their jobs, McRoberts was often just doing his job.
So, I was wrong, and I apologize for that.
Josh McRoberts probably doesn’t know or care that I wrote what I wrote at all, let alone that I’m apologizing for it. But I do.
The quote above from O’Brien was only a snippet of a larger set of comments:
“We were not paying attention to the scouting report,” O’Brien said about defending Frye. “That’s what we were doing.
“That’s the way it goes. There were about four 3s that guys weren’t paying attention.
“It had nothing to do with the guy guarding him. It’s how we were supposed to go under pick-n-rolls and how were going to go up and through screens.
“Our guys had a different agenda tonight.”
This is a point that I’m going to belabor this season. I’m going to hammer on it, approaching – but hopefully stopping just short – of being a car alarm about it. The Pacers have to play together. They have to play within the system to succeed.
This isn’t to say that the system is the perfect. This isn’t to say that the system paves the way to a title. It’s to say that it’s how this team becomes a unit, and how this team will make the playoffs this year. This is the system they have, and if these players learn to play together within this system, then they will be more apt to play together – regardless of the system. If they don’t, then they’ll be more apt to be disjointed – regardless of the system.
It’s why I don’t care whether Brandon Rush or Mike Dunleavy starts. It’s why I don’t care whether Darren Collison or T.J. Ford finishes. It’s why I agree with the lack of playing time for Tyler Hansbrough and Paul George – for the time being. What I care about is whether the unit on the floor looks cohesive or not.
Look, I’m an analyst, so I will constantly break down the whole, but largely in an effort to understand the whole better. The Pacers made my job simple last night – and worse, the Suns job simple – by breaking themselves down.
This team is not laden with overwhelming talent. It must execute, and it must be unified. When it is, beautiful things happen.
When it isn’t … Well, as Mike Wells said, they will throw another game in the basket with Milwaukee, Houston, Oklahoma City, and this one.
Things are better, but that only means more is expected.