Game #71 Recap: Pacers Crawl Across the Finish Line Slightly Ahead of a Terrible Team

It was a tale of two halves. And by that, I mean they played two halves of basketball. Twenty-four minutes each, which combined was roughly 45 minutes more than anyone watching should have been watching.

The last couple were interesting. I’ll give the game that. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were good basketball by any means, but true to the calendar heading under which they were played, there was a decidedly March Madness vibe: scrappy, unpredictable and full of weird things that really shouldn’t be happening when two teams are playing high-level hoops.

Case in point: Sasha Vujacic hit 3 three-pointers in the final 3 minutes. Sundiata Gaines, who dropped a career-high 18 points on 11 shots, hit another. They watched an 11-point lead dissolve and while, sure, Sasha was in a zone, it really should not be that hard to make those desperation comeback shots a little more difficult given how poorly the Nets usually create open looks.

But while the Pacers almost coughed up the game in the final minutes, they won it in the third quarter, outscoring New Jersey 29-17 and holding them to 24.1% shooting (7-for-29). Danny Granger — finally — rediscovered his shooting stroke, making 2 of this 3 shots in the quarter and adding a few points at the line. Granger added 10 more in the fourth to give the captain 17 points in the second half. This was especially nice to see for Pacers fans considering that Danny missed his first 6 shots of the game, which at the time meant he had bottomed out at 14 for his last 48 field goal attempts. That’s a 29.2% clip over nearly 14 quarters. He eventually hit one before the half, foreshadowing his strong second 24 minutes, but when the team’s primary scorer comes out so flat and the entire team follows suit by managing a mere 15 points in the first quarter, there really doesn’t seem to be a lot of urgency to make it to this whole postseason thing.

Good work pulling away in the third and then not completely shooting yourself in the foot late, but, really, more than 70 games into the season this is more troubling than anything.

Looking back to the game’s beginning, there was very little quality basketball being played by Indiana, or New Jersey honestly, in the first two quarters. Vujacic was causing problems for the Pacers for one stretch early as well. That bad. Then Sudiata Gaines got in on the act. Kris Humphries was rebounding everything, snatching 10 boards off the window, including 3 on the offensive end.

It’s not like the Nets were doing anything spectacular. Indiana was just giving no resistance and certainly not putting forth the energy you would expect from a team in the Pacers’ position.

Defensively, Darren Collison spent much of the half much like he has spent much of the season: out of position. As Zach Lowe of SI’s The Point Forward noted, Dahntay Jones at one point left Anthony Morrow, a career 45.3% three-point shooter, to double Kris Humphries, a 34.5% shooter from between 10-15 feet this season, despite the fact that (a) Humphries wasn’t even in the paint, and (b) Tyler Hansbrough was in fine position to guard Humphries. And when guys weren’t doing things like leaving Morrow open for no real reason, Morrow stayed busy getting Paul George into foul trouble.

Really, the only thing that allowed Indiana to trail only 44-40 at the half was that the Nets are the Nets. They shot an ugly 1-for-9 from behind the arc in the first two quarters and it wasn’t as if there were any great defensive rotations or hard close-outs from the Pacers that caused the errant accuracy. Again, if the Nets weren’t the Nets, it could have been worse — and it was at one point when New Jersey was up 12 — given just how anemic indiana’s offense was.

The whole team shot an depressing-but-not-particularly-unusual 39.5% through the first two quarters, not to mention committing 9 turnovers, there was little proof of life early. It was starting to look like David Stern really should just let whichever deserving Western Conference team finishes 9th have the East’s final playoff spot.

I’m sure nearly every single player on this team is looking forward to playing in the playoffs — most for the first time — but at this point, watching a game like this, it’s hard to see anything but four blowouts happening when they get there.

Tags: Anthony Morrow Dahntay Jones Danny Granger Game Recap Kris Humphries New Jersey Nets Sasha Vujacic Sundiata Gaines

  • Balbushka

    Getting to the playoffs and winning is mostly based on experience so I would rather them get some then have none. Get em…


    Hmm! Had the same sinking frustrated feeling listening to the game via computer! However, I still looked for something instructive in your dismal analysis, but in vain. Just hope your playoff crystal ball is a little awry!

  • Aaron

    Why does this blog even exist? I thought it was a fan blog, but I rarely read anything from actual fans.

    Admittedly, the team looked very dismal for the 6 game losing streak they underwent not too long ago… A (very) young team trying to establish a new identity might be expected to go through such times, especially in a month where they play 18 games. But to trash-talk the team after a road win (the 8th game in 12 days), saying they seemed to lack energy, is a new low for the bloggers, NOT the team.

    A few reminders here… they’ve gone 4-2 in the last six, with the losses both coming on the road to playoff teams, one a legit title contender, the other the second night of a back-to-back. Three of those four were to playoff teams with superstars peppering the line-up. I expected to see a blog titled something like “Game #69 Recap: Bulls Lose in an OT They Didn’t Even Deserve to Play In in the First Place,” but none such appeared.

    Not so long ago there was a post on this blog giving quite a statistical breakdown of the unlikelihood of their making the playoffs. Now, a four-game sweep seems “inevitable,” while the tone of this blog has gotten more and more hopeless.

    What gives?

  • MilesZS

    Aaron, man… I love the Pacers, but it’s hard to watch a team when they don’t appear to be playing hard, let alone thinking about what they’re doing. The Pacers 2010-11 pendulum swings erratically from tight-knit team with feisty defense and balanced offense to a group of individuals with brainless defense and listless offense, sometimes within a single quarter. Being a fan doesn’t mean being a constant optimist. It doesn’t mean the author must avoid criticizing. Maybe some more optimism and encouragement could be sprinkled in — I don’t know — but, sometimes, when your team looks like they are trying to give the worst team in the league a freebie with 12 games left and a playoff spot not yet secured, frustration wrests control of your brain’s steering wheel. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to write an article inspired by your current emotions — in this case, probably frustration and anger born of fandom — than it is to forcibly punt those feelings and write a happy we’ve-got-a-2-game-lead piece.

    A lot of us are frustrated. I actually chastised a friend of mine for texting to tell me the Pacers were doing well during the Chicago game, because I irrationally was sure he jinxed them. (He did.) He promised not to watch overtime. (He didn’t, which clearly worked.) Come to find out, he checked the score once — which, I have to assume, was why Danny Granger fouled out. … See? That’s the kind of year it is. I believed my friend jinxed a professional sports team, somehow triggering some supernatural phenomena than nearly cost them the game.

    Go Pacers.

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  • Jared Wade

    It’s a Pacers news/info/analysis/opinion/jokes blog — not a fan blog. No Bulls recap was a staffing issue/oversight by me and in no way related to us not wanting to discuss what was a very positive win for a team that looked very good that evening. They’re 31-40 in the East. Anyone who thinks this season, or this month, is going well is watching through rose-colored glasses.

  • Aaron

    My apologies. Wasn’t arguing that the month is going well; was simply arguing that after a win and a fairly positive 6 game stretch is hardly the time for negativity in the news. I am fairly sure there are not a lot of NON-fans checking out this blog regularly.

    My glasses are decidedly not rose-colored. I have been a displaced fan for 11 years who every year has to struggle with the decision to purchase NBA League Pass just to follow a team during its worst period in history. But were I stuck with just this blog, I might be missing some key elements that would impact my decision next year.

    The Pacers are likely going to sneak into the post-season this year. They are likely going to end the playoffs in a four-game sweep. They suffer terribly from inconsistent effort, inconsistent cohesion, youthful confusion, and a lack of All-Star depth. But teams with much more going for them, like Miami, Orlando, New York, just to name a few in the east, have their struggles with inconsistent effort and cohesion as well.

    But it is unfair to fans to act like there are not real, tangible improvements. I do not think it is rose-colored to think they have a good shot of actually EARNING a playoff spot next year. Since the release of O’Brien (may he retire in peace), they are a +.500 team over a reasonable sampling schedule, and they’ve got money to spare for the offseason. Implying that they are just limping ahead of the truly terrible is a bit much.

    My analysis may be different than yours… For the most part, I enjoy the blog, and many of its posts have been very insightful. Let’s agree to disagree on this one.

  • Jared Wade

    No worries, man. Wasn’t trying to be dismissive of your thoughts. Feel like your comment here reflects the general coverage we’ve had all year. Just, in this case, this was a truly terrible game. Both teams played like garbage and the “crawl across the finish line ahead of a terrible team” was in reference to this game. Due to the improvements you note and the general upswing we should be able to expect for next year, this team should be blasting a borderline D-League roster like that of the Nets by 20. And it’s not just this game that has been tough to watch. The Sixers, Wolves, Raptors and Grizz games were all really gross and the Celtics loss should have been worse if Doc played his starters more minutes. Great work vs the Knicks and Bulls though. That’s a good sign. We all agree on that. Sounds like you see the big picture things like most of us who contribute to this blog do. You just must have seen some positives on this night that I most certainly didn’t. Aside from Rush and Danny making a few buckets and Roy having his first 20 point game in over a month, it was just a crap show. And backsliding with no-shows like this and the Memphis game, even if they follow a few nice nights, is discouraging — particularly when you think about the fact that the team remains relatively devoid of leadership 70 games into the season.