Would you like me to pretend this is a normal team and break down this game in a traditional way? Do you want to hear about the 62 points the Pacers surrendered in the first half or the 53.1% they allowed the Raptors to shoot for the game (which includes a lackluster 4-for-16 from behind the arc)? Shall we talk about the effortless, season-high 29 points that Leandro Barbosa scored? How about the 11-for-12 combined shooting display by relative unknowns James Johnson and Ed Davis? Or what about the 13 boards grabbed by that same Davis or the 16 (including 6 on the offensive end) hauled in by Reggie Evans? Maybe we should talk about the worst sin of all: the whole Pacers team, down only 6 with less than a minute to play, allowing Jose Calderon drive … nay … walk right to the rim for an uncontested layup?
I’m not going to go into any more detail about the particulars of this one.
Because this is a team in crisis, and the only thing that is really important to the narrative of this season anymore is whether or not this an still actually a basketball team or just a collection of 15 co-workers who are now just counting down the days until school’s out for summer.
I’m not the type of basketball viewer to walk around harping on Mighty Ducks-style platitudes. In fact, I’m a guy whose actual senior year book quote in high school was Homer Simpson’s “Well, boy, you failed. The lesson here is: Never try.” Rudy Ruettiger I am not.
But there simply wasn’t a ton of effort out there again tonight — particularly on the defensive end of the floor. The Raptors aren’t the worst team in the league — that’s the Cavs. But they might be the easiest team to push around physically. With Evans now back from a major ankle injury that had sidelined him since November, the Raptors have toughened up. But it’s not like going into Toronto, a team that recently lost back-to-back games to New Jersey in London, and winning is a difficult proposition.
Yet the Pacers only led for 43 seconds in this contest that was never close. Again, worse than the outcome was the way the team looked.
Really, all you need to know about this one is that the most tenacity the team showed can after the game was already decided. Leandro Barbosa took a shot rather than just dribble out the clock like a good little boy scout would. Most likely, he remembered when Darren Collison popped a jumper with the clock dwindling and the Pacers up big in a Raptors loss to the Pacers a few weeks ago. (It was Frank Vogel’s first game coaching if I’m not mistaken.) Well, Danny Granger, in particular was highly upset by what he perceived as Barbosa’s disrespectful shot attempt. There is an unwritten rule that you don’t try to score if the other team has already surrendered and there is less than 24 seconds left in the game. You just dribble it out, shake hands and head to the locker room. So it’s understandable that Granger would take offense.
But when you loaf around the court and get embarrassed, for the sixth straight outing, mind you, I would think that there are bigger things to be frustrated about. Perhaps Danny deserves the benefit of the doubt here and this was just his larger frustration about his team’s futility boiling over in a mis-directed manner … but it sure made him look silly. As a captain, you can’t motivate your team to come out here and give enough of an effort to even hang with a terrible, terrible team, but you’re ready to get all fired up about an impolite act by a Raptors reserve? After the game, Danny said the following about the incident: “If I was on him I would have took his neck off him. That’s unsportsmanlike. I would have taken his head off and busted his lip.” Nice priorities. (In Danny’s defense, he did shoot OK and got to the line 8 times on his way to 25 point so he was at least paying attention on the offensive end.)
Getting back to the team-wide malaise, I watched on TV with Toronto broadcast feed and even their announcers repeatedly seemed shocked at how nonchalant Indiana looked. At one point, fairly early in the game, one announcer mentioned that it’s “hard to believe that’s a Pacer team battling for a Playoff spot.” After half time, their play-by-play guy tried to re-set the stage for viewers, stating that the playoff-hopeful Pacers were “a team desperate for a W.” His partner quipped that “they don’t seem [desperate].” They also took several shots at Danny Granger, criticizing his lackluster effort getting up off the ground to get back on defense at one point and generally mentioning his disinterest on that end of the floor altogether.
The Pacers announcers were seeing the same thing. Indiana legend and should-be-Hall of Famer Slick Leonard offered these gems: “We have no interest in the defensive end of the floor” and “Time to get out the big ol’ mirror and have these guys look at themselves in it” and “We’re out there Mickey Mousing around.”
That about sums this one up.
Will probably sum up the ensuing loss to the Knicks in Madison Square on Sunday, too.