Playing a team from a city known for a cracked bell, Indiana got its clock cleaned. Losing to a team like Philadelphia at home, like that means one thing: if you didn’t already, you can now officially consider the Frank Vogel honeymoon to be over.
Mired in a three-game losing streak and not long after a reported players-only meeting, the Pacers got off to another signature slow start against Philadelphia, eventually losing by the looks-closer-than-it-was score of 110-100. In a game between the 7th- and 8th-seeded teams in the Eastern Conference, the 76ers took control very early in a game they never trailed. It was Indiana’s third wire-to-wire loss in their last four games.
Just once, in fact, did the Pacers even lurk in their opponent’s shadow. Down 15 in the second quarter, Indiana went on an 8-0 run and appeared likely to cut the deficit to just a handful at the break. But one long three-pointer and a flying tip-in by the Sixers soon brought the difference back to 12. It never got much closer until a late rally attempt sputtered, once again revealing the bad start to be Indiana’s Achilles’ Hell.
A daunting March schedule, including six back-to-backs and six road dates in an eight-game span, had people expecting a rough start to the season’s most important month. It’s been more than just a few losses to playoff-bound teams, however. The Pacers have had no answers, no go-to-guy, no chance.
Fortunately, they play in the Eastern Conference, where seemingly every other team in the hunt for the final remaining postseason berth has given up. It’s very realistic that the Pacers could back into the 8th seed and the assured sweep from Boston, but what’s most disconcerting is the lack of answers now.
It seems increasingly likely that Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison disappear for long stretches. Granger did not score a single point in the second half until he converted a meaningless jumper (plus a free-throw) with his team down by 12 with just a minute left. Vogel’s assertion that “no one in the NBA plays harder than Tyler Hansbrough” was spot on tonight, as he was the sole bright spot for the Pacers (26 points on 11-for-14 shooting in 30 minutes), but that can’t be the entire backbone of the franchise. Let us not forget that when the Pacers took Hansbrough with their first round pick in 2009 Jay Bilas said that every practice just got much better.
Not a game, not a game, not a game. We’re talking about practice.
The team is in a current state of flux. Recent efforts have been made to clean up the team’s image, bring in character guys and create a more likeable image. All of these efforts have been successful, the occasional drug suspension or domestic violence allegation notwithstanding. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll be the first person to celebrate the small step of returning to the playoffs.
Ultimately, however, it comes down to winning. There’s still time to do enough of that to grab the final spot into the postseason, but are there any long-term answers in Indianapolis other than Tyler Hansbrough playing hard?
It would be nice if the questions about the Pacers were this easy to answer. (via Everything You Love to Hate)