The Pacers Have No Accountability and Don’t Understand What Is Important

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May 26, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) reacts against the Miami Heat in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

May 26, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) reacts against the Miami Heat in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

After Game 4, Paul George spent most of his press conference bemoaning the officiating. He got fined $25,000 for suggesting the free-throw disparity (Miami’s 34 attempts to Indina’s 17) was due to some “home cooking.”

He sounded like a child.

His team had just gotten waxed — straight blown out the building in a must-win — and here he was blaming external factors, not his team’s poor play. Regardless of what happened, you want a theoretical superstar to hold himself accountable there, taking himself and his team to task for falling down by 23 points.

Just listen to Chris Paul take personal responsibility for a loss after he was whistled for fouling a 3-point shooter late in a playoff loss to the Thunder. He didn’t agree with the call (plus he made two other egregiously bad plays late).

Paul George, on the other hand, just sat there in public and displayed the lack of accountability that has been glaringly and embarrassingly absent from the Indiana Pacers for months.

David West had some similar things to say, noting that their must be some “new rules” at play as a reason that the Pacers sent the Heat at the line so much.

Roy Hibbert, after the loss, wanted to talk about the game plan and his lack of touches as the reason that he scored 0 points for the fourth time in 17 playoff games this season. In two of those games, he didn’t get a single rebound either. But it is the game plan — which is in effect saying your coach — that is at fault.

In March, Hibbert’s bad play, in his mind, was also a product of the “selfish dudes” that populated Indiana’s locker room.

These are the three members of the Pacers who have played in an All-Star Game. And after losing their biggest game of the year, against the rival they waited all year to get another shot at, they blame others for their inability to get the job done.

But it isn’t just them.

One of the most inexplicable moments that stands out from Indiana’s late-season swoon came when Atlanta walked into The Fieldhouse on a Sunday evening and destroyed the Pacers. The final margin of defeat was 107-88, but the game was lost just a few minutes after tip off.

Still, late in the second half, Frank Vogel was over on the sidelines complaining vehemently to the officials. It happened on multiple occasions, and this wasn’t just the thing where a sly coach is talking out of the side of his mouth to someone who is essentially a coworker, hoping to make future hay about verticality or Paul George’s physical perimeter defense.

No, Vogel was exasperatedly reacting like a kid whose toy just broke, appearing to believe that a few free throws here and there had anything to do with his team being destroyed from wire to wire. It is one of the more embarrassing things I can recall from a post-All-Star break campaign — and there are plenty of options to pick from.

It was a top-down message that the way the team was playing was even remotely acceptable, and it set an example that blaming others for your personal failings is something that it is OK for adults to do.

Look, the Pacers have had to deal with some foul-related adversity in this series.

Game 4 marked the third straight game in which one of their starting five was forced to miss significant time on the bench with foul trouble.

In Game 4, it was Lance Stephenson and Roy Hibbert who had to sit. In Game 2, it was David West, who picked up his third foul in the first half on a play where LeBron James certainly exaggerated contact (but where there was definitely some contact … video in this post). In Game 3, it was Paul George.

The results have been a big setback for Indiana.

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Tags: Indiana Pacers

  • Ian

    I mostly agree with what you are saying. Even if the fouls weren’t fouls at all and the refs just blew the call, you don’t call out and blame the officials. If the game was super close and a couple calls decided it, then I can definitely understand the player’s frustration. But this was one of those games where the final score, as bad as it was, didn’t reflect how lopsided the game really was. Miami got hosed at the foul line in game 1 and all the talk from them was about their horrible defense, not how the refs punished them.

    That said, the refs did seem to have a pretty strong double standard, calling countless touch fouls and phantom fouls on the Pacers while letting the Heat get away with murder. This is unfortunately how NBA officiating works. The officials get caught up in each team’s energy and call fouls based on who is being the attacker vs. the attacked, rather than who is actually committing fouls. And home court certainly plays a part.

    I’m hoping Vogel pulls the guys together and gives them a rant like he did earlier in the playoffs, tells the to knock off the BS and work their buts off. I have little faith that the Pacers can win the series but it’d be shameful if they can’t make it go six.

  • Grant

    Isn’t this a justification for removing Vogel this off-season and to place a coach who can actually lead this Pacers team, have them play with passion, quit whining after every call and stop feeling “comfortable” (George Hill said today that the Pacers got too comfortable after game 1, I repeat, after game 1, against
    the 2 time defending champions with the best player in the world).

    There are very few ways to improve the Pacers moving forward as the rest of the Eastern Conference. catches up, wouldn’t placing a true leader at coach help improve their mindset and attitude dramatically? I am not a huge fan of Mark Jackson, but his players completely bought in to him, gave great effort and battled to the end; very different from this years continually and inappropriately complacent, whinny team.

    • Ian

      Every coach is good at some things and bad at others. While Mark Jackson would be tempting, he also somehow managed to generate basically a league average offense at GS despite all the talent on the roster. Mostly it was ‘give the ball to Steph and make him do something’.

      Perhaps Vogel has lost the team. If they lose game 5, then that might be a sign. The biggest names out there right now are Jackson and George Karl.

      I do think that if the Pacers keep him they need to hire a full time offensive coordinator and let him focus on defense.

    • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

      I guess it depends on how much credit you give Vogel for the elite defense. Do you think it is Vogel’s vision or simply a result of uniquely talented defensive players? There was a point earlier this year where the Pacers were on pace to have a top 5 defense all time when adjusting for league average scoring.

      • Special K

        I personally don’t think the Vogel does anything particularly special. It really shows when he’s matched up against a dynamic offense and basically keeps hammering more of the same Pacerball while they get shredded in key moments. I’ve never seen him make a particularly impressive adjustment pre-game or in-game do compensate for an opponent’s strength.

        • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

          I think I lean more towards Ian. I’ve got Vogel behind Pop, Carlisle, Rivers, Spoelstra, and Stan the Man. Being the sixth best coach in the league is not an indictment. As far as the in game adjustments go, Hibbert just doesn’t strike me as a particularly adjustment friendly player. On both ends of the floor he only realizes his value right around the basket.

          I mean, what adjustment can Vogel make to make Hibbert mobile enough to challenge the floaters while still being able to recover to the rim?

          Offensively the criticism is more valid. He needs an offensive minded assistant to take responsibility for that. Mike Dantoni is unemployed right now. =O

          • Special K

            Well I think that’s exactly it. Even if you can’t adjust around Hibbert, you have four other guys on the court and a bench that you can work with to work around his weaknesses. If your system is so rigid that you can’t move some pieces around, then you’re lacking something. Mahinmi has a little more athleticism to float out to the wing when needed, or he could move some other pieces around to compensate for Roy’s issues. Obviously it won’t work 100% of the time, but it’s not as though other coaches don’t have players with obvious weaknesses. The top guys find ways to adjust to attack the opponent’s strength. I’ve never really seen Vogel do anything like that.

      • Ian

        I think you have to give Vogel a lot of credit. Before he took over Indy was an awful defensive team. The two major additions were Hill and West, and the loss of Danny. Hill was always a good defender, but West wasn’t considered particularly good, and George was just potential. No one ever thought Lance would be a good defensive player, and there were doubts whether Hibbert would even stick in the league. I think you have to give Vogel credit for their development. In addition, the way the Pacers defense works is important. It’s statistically very sound, it doesn’t succeed by accident (limiting 3s and paint shots).

        • Special K

          “It’s statistically very sound, it doesn’t succeed by accident (limiting 3s and paint shots).”
          And that works very well against mediocre teams. It seems to break down completely against higher tier foes. Miami (who, admittedly does it better than almost everyone else) seems to be able to get in the paint or find open threes whenever they want in this series. Some adjustments have to be made to compensate for what you know Miami will do rather than just trying to stick to the same man-on-man, slow rotating structure.

  • 15points126seconds

    damn, jared is probably our biggest critic. guess you chalk up this season to growing pains and hope The Five mature after the long offseason. Think Frank needs a new offensive-minded assistant and has to figure out how to incorporate the bench better. cant run the starters into the ground.

    • Ian

      Yes I think the problem with Vogel’s system is it relies on having 5 guys on the floor who can both defend and score in multiple ways. This is hard to do. That’s why most teams have a 2-3 multi dimensional players and a bunch of specialists to play off of them. This will require George and Lance to keep improving and allow them to make players around themselves more effective.

      This also reinforces the need to resign Lance. Even though he is up and down, he’s 23. He’s the only change the Pacers have of getting another top-flight player on the roster. They certainly aren’t going to be able to trade for one.

      • 15points126seconds

        so this is really the interesting point- ppl who think the pacers should retool drastically haven’t been paying attention
        We developed 3 non-lottery guys into very solid starters, took a chance on West coming off an ACL, and helped make PG into a budding/borderline superstar. But right now the value for Hill and Hibbert have never been lower and it would be a mistake to sell on them now. Better yet to realize our team is young and allow them to improve their games and give it another go next year. After all the pacers starters have the second youngest weighted by minutes team to make it to 2 straight conference finals (after OKC).
        With the money committed to hibbert (4yrs/58 mil), west (3yrs/36mil), and pg (4yrs, ~90mil?) the only conceivable way to make a move is to move hill (5yrs/40 mil) and/or lance. idk if we could get a kyle lowry type or not, but if we can convince lance to accept a hill-type of contract (which would be a hometown discount) we gotta jump on that.

    • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

      I don’t think the starters were run into the ground… at least in the regular season. I haven’t looked at post season data. Roy and West each only played about 30 mpg. Hill played a little more than that. Lance and George were both in the top 25 in mpg, but they are both also hyperathletic and young. None of that really jumps off the page at me.

      What does jump off the page is just how many minutes those 5 play on the floor together. That means that the remaining minutes of the game are going to be bench units with unusually few starters on the floor, and those lineups are not going to get nearly as much run as they do with some other teams.

      Simply put, you are setting your bench up for failure and marginalizing them at the same time by having such a rigid rotation that results in long stretches of time where your best player on the floor might be CJ Watson. I’ve loved Watson since college, but there is a reason he is on a $1 mil per year contract.

      When you look at Miami’s rotations as a comparison, it quickly becomes clear that Spoelstra is utilizing a vastly different philosophy. Spoelstra ALWAYS has either Wade or LeBron on the quart, and most of the time Bosh is in when one of the two sits. The idea is to always have enough firepower from your starting unit on the floor to allow your bench players to be effective. Vogel doesn’t do this.

      Now, Vogel doesn’t have the top end offensive star power that Miami does. As good as Lance and PG are, they aren’t as good with the ball in their hands as Dwyane and LeBron respectively. So maybe comparing the two is unfair.

      Still, the point remains that even if the number of minutes played isn’t unusual, Vogel’s substitution pattern is an outlier in the NBA and seems to be a liability.

      • Ian

        Actually, do to their relatively health, the Pacers starters played more total minutes than any other starting 5 in the NBA.

        And your comment about LeBron and Wade ties into what I was saying and the criticality of keeping Lance, and having Paul and Lance continue to develop. They need two top quality ball handler/scorers who can draw attention and make their teammates better for the Pacers to become less dependent on playing the ’5′ altogether. Without a true point, Vogel needs to be able to count on them not only getting their own shots but enabling good shots for their teammates, and they are the only guys on the roster with the potential to do that. Kyle Lowry and the other top PG free agents aren’t going to fit on the Pacers salary structure, and Hill and Hibbert aren’t going to bring much back in return. So they have to count on Paul and Lance developing into the kind of playmakers LeBron and Wade are.

        • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

          I have to wonder if the “no true point guard” thing is overblown. I know that Hill and Watson aren’t world beaters, but there have been multiple Pacer point guards that have left Vogel’s system and been more successful elsewhere.

          Perhaps it is more a matter of diversifying the offense more. I know that playing West and Hibbert together can be somewhat limiting, but it certainly seems like there is room for more active sets.

          Good point about the starters not missing games, but I don’t think they actually have played more minutes. I think they have played more minutes TOGETHER (I may just be completely off base here). Regardless, I’m showing Lance and PG are the only two players in the top 50 in total minutes played during the regular season. Conversely, all five of Portland’s starters were in the top 50 in minutes played while two of their starters played more minutes than anyone for Ind.

          • Ian

            There was an article on it on ESPN. Portland and Indy were the top two. The theory was it would catch up in the playoffs and it sort of looks like it has.

            As for point guard, don’t get me wrong. Hill and Watson are good players. But they are more 3-and-D guards than playmakers. You need to have very skilled ball handling wings and big men to make that work (see, Jordan’s Bulls, current Heat). The Pacers need Lance and George to develop into the general sphere of those guys for the Pacers to be able to bring their role players into the game better.

          • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

            Well taken on all counts.

  • Ian

    As for Roy, I think he’s largely right. He needs to get the ball more. The problem is that against Miami’s press it takes the point guards 10 seconds to get the ball up court which means not enough time to feed the post.

    If there’s one thing the Pacers should be working on for game 5 its advancing the ball and getting into their offense MUCH quicker against pressure. If that means PG and Lance advancing the ball most of the time then fine.

    • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

      Modern defenses just make it sooooo difficult to get the ball into the deep post when they are trying to prevent that. This just isn’t the 90s anymore where you couldn’t leave the shooter in the weak side corner to help defend the entry pass.

      Hibbert is going to have to expand his game to be consistently effective…. which is kind of bizarre to say since he has those hook shots, a little midrange jumper, and even a one dribble faceup game when everything is working. Unfortunately it isn’t always working, and I think part of that is that he has to catch the ball in the exact right spot to do it.

      Regardless, he needs a two dribble face up game and a more consistent 10 footer, I think.

      • Ian

        You are right, but if the Pacers can try to get it into the post with 18 seconds on the shot clock and give up, they can go with plan B or C. If they fail getting it into the post with 10 seconds on the shot clock, there’s not much time to do anything else but ISO into a bad midrange shot.

        • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

          Yeah. The Pacers don’t really have a continuity to their offense. They run a motion, and if it doesn’t work they end up having to reset and run another motion. Like you said, after a certain point clearing out or a simple pick and roll is the only thing you really have time for. The best offensive teams have secondary and tertiary motions that flow out of their primary motion unless it is just completely defeated.

          It is funny you bring up that 18 second number. A lot of the time when LeBron brings the ball up the court, he walks very casually and crosses half court right around that 16-17 second mark. It frustrates me to no end because I know they won’t get into their offense until about 14 seconds left on the clock. It may be confirmation bias, but it certainly seems like they have a disproportionate number of wasted possessions when they do that.

          I was noticing that in game 1 the Heat did that alot while Indiana was getting over half court with 20 seconds on the clock and, like you said, were putting the ball in the post with 18 seconds left.

          Indiana has to make that 18 second number their goal if they want to challenge for this series. They may not have the ball control skills to make it happen, but they absolutely have to try.

      • Special K

        It doesn’t help that Roy, despite being the biggest guy on the court 95% of the time (100% of the time in this series) is gawd awful at getting position on the low block. He posts up 15 feet out and the starts gently nudging his man. In the spots that he gets the ball, he isn’t capable of consistently making things happen. I agree that his game is severely lacking in alternatives in these situations.

        • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

          People forget that Shaq frequently posted up at 15 feet. He had a killer runner across the lane and had a wicked spin move to the baseline if you cheated to cut off the middle of the court.

          Hibbert isn’t Shaq, but my point is that Shaq was a guy that didn’t have a strong midrange but was still dangerous working out of the mid or even high post.

          • Special K

            Sure, agree, and yes I remember. But the difference is exactly what you stated, Shaq both had the toughness to back a guy down from that spot, or to make moves that got him clean shots. Hibbert seems like he’d rather move away from the basket to get his shots in those situations, and could learn a thing or two from Scola’s up and under moves. The fact is that while it’s possible to be useful in the post when you’re out that far, Hibbert is not.

  • disqus_atlq8Zmtsd

    Wow…. this may be the most hypercritical call out by a local writer I have seen in some time. I applaud the honestly, but I would imagine it might not generate many happy feelings if you do much on site work.

  • Special K

    If the Heat are merciful (they’re not), they would put the Pacers, and their fans, out of their misery tonight. They went ahead and sat their old bodies because they know that the Pacers are a beaten, broken team, and not even a remote threat any longer in this series. I’d like to say that I expect the Pacers to rise to the occasion, even if just for one game, but they have yet to really rise to any occasion all season, so I can’t think of any reason that I’d expect that today. This team is missing the metaphorical “it.” Whatever Miami has and San Antonio has and (thankfully) Andrew Luck has, The Pacers have none of it. This team fell apart shortly after the All Star break and no one in the locker room or the front office could put it back together. In the words of Jack Nicholson’s Joker, “This (team) needs an enema.”