It should be stated from the onset that the Indiana Pacers are in great shape heading back to Indianapolis after grabbing a split with the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Even in a losing effort on Tuesday, May 7, the Pacers played the home team toe-to-toe for three quarters.
And yet, the game typified the Pacers effort so far in the 2013 NBA Playoffs: the better (and much more balanced) team much of the time, but at other times almost disinterested. When it counted the most in New York’s Game 2, the Knicks went on an inexplicable 30-2 run to win the game quite easily. How does this happen? And who is to blame?
Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel has received some criticism for an ill-advised timeout and substitution pattern. To which, he responded, to Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, “You’ve got to use the bench at some point.”
The dominant New York run and Game 2 victory did not stop Kravitz, along with Charles Barkley, from stating his observation and prediction that the Pacers have the better team and will go on to win the series.
Vogel’s response in this instance doesn’t sound super convincing to me, but on the other hand, it’s hard to blame a 28-point swing on coaching alone. How did the Pacers players allow such a thing to happen?
Perhaps the Pacers youthfulness has something do with this, but the inconsistency has been present for the entire playoffs. In their 4-2 first-round victory over the Atlantic Hawks, for example, both losses were by double digits. Game 3 was especially concerning, with the Hawks winning by 21 points.
After two straight road losses against the Hawks, the Pacers got serious again and closed out the series. Will this unpredictability continue?
Don’t get me wrong, losing games in the playoffs is inevitable. But the concern is that when the Pacers aren’t at their best, it almost seems like they stop fighting. A Game 2 loss to the Knicks by three or four would be a lot different psychologically than a loss by 26.
Like Kravitz and Barkley, the first couple games have shown me that the Pacers are the more equipped of the two teams to win the series and battle the Miami Heat (or Chicago Bulls) in the Eastern Conference finals. But it really would be nice to see the same gritty group showing up every night.