A couple days ago, I wrote a piece about a particularly futile offensive possession by the Pacers that led to an equally disappointing three-point play by the Wizards. I argued that it summed up the Pacers’ effort for the game. It was a particularly negative sentiment, and I suggested that, despite the Pacers’ win, the sluggish effort was unacceptable.
Today, I am going to compensate for that over-pessimistic attitude with a little bit of over-optimisim. I, personally, was much happier with last night’s loss to the Spurs than I was with Thursday’s win over the Wizards. My reasoning: the Pacers came to play.
I know many of you may disagree with me because the Spurs were in control for seemingly 90% of the game, but the Pacers did bring effort and execution. The Wizards didn’t want to win on Thursday night (probably why they ended up losing), but sadly, neither did the Pacers. They looked like they didn’t even want to be there, like they wish they could just fast-forward to playoff time (perhaps a common feeling league-wide during this condensed season, but still unacceptable). That’s probably why it was such a low-energy game.
Last night, however, both teams wanted to win. The Spurs just happened to do what they do to a whole lot of teams. Thy executed better, made more shots, and played enough defense when it counted. There are a number of possible reasons for this: the Spurs had a better shooting night from three-point land, they are more experienced, or maybe they are just a flat out better team than the Pacers.
Let’s keep in mind that this is the same Spurs team with the fourth-best record in the NBA. Let’s keep in mind that they had been resting since Wednesday night when they dropped 118 points on the Kings. Let’s keep in mind that they are one of the most efficient offenses in the league. And above all, let’s keep in mind that Timmy and company have been doing this to teams for years — over a decade in fact.
But the Pacers stood tall with a balanced attack as well. They executed and made the majority of their shots. The reason I am so optimistic is because, let’s be honest, it was the Spurs’ night, but the Pacers kept playing hard and even almost mounted a comeback in the fourth. For every great comeback, there are at least two or three that fall short. Indiana’s late push was ultimately too little, too late, but you need to have those kind of efforts to ever expect to make something happen. Especially in the playoffs.
Also, I may be in the minority in that I think the Pacers would fare OK in a series with the Spurs, simply by keeping up with them. Not that they would ever face them in the playoffs, but it is still comforting. Duncan gave the Spurs a helluva game last night with 23 points and 11 rebounds. I can tell you right now that he won’t give them that seven times in a series. In fact, the Pacers could play them again and David West could very well outscore him. Ask the Grizzlies and they’ll tell you that if you keep executing and maybe step up the physical play then you can stop the Spurs. At least last year’s version.
If you thought I was exaggerating last time when I said that Jordan Crawford’s and-one summed up the game, then you probably won’t like my newest generalization. George’s highlight-reel dunk after chasing down the jump ball was exactly the kind of plays needed to win big games.
There were certainly some negatives to take away. The defense needs to step up. They need to get to the line more in such a high-scoring game. Barbosa needs to be a consistent spark off the bench.
Regardless, you can call me overly optimistic, but I liked the effort. The Rockets are not as good as the Spurs, but they are still quite a formidable team. If the Pacers give the same type of effort then it should be very winnable game.
And win or lose, that is all we can really ask for. No one expects the Pacers to sweep anyone in the playoffs. But if the effort and focus are there then the talent will show eventually. There is no superstar to put the team on his back. But in the last couple weeks of the season, the Pacers can hone their effort and focus. If they can do that, there won’t be a team in the East that will be excited to see them in a seven-game series.