Indiana’s Awful Offense: Why Can’t the Pacers Score?

Photo: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Photo: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /
Photo: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Photo: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indiana Pacers got embarrassed in public yet again against the Spurs on Monday night. It was nothing new and, at this point, nothing unexpected. Indiana has lost five of its past six games, and scored less than 80 points in all five of those losses.

What in god’s name is going on?

Teams play bad during an 82-game season. Even teams with as much talent as the Pacers can stumble over their own feet for awhile. And mediocre play from a team that has been largely unimpressive since February began has become routine.

But not this.

This is something else. This is just some unexplainable, Bermuda Triangle-like phenomena that has sucked all life from the players on this team. They now roam the court like husks of once-talented humans who can no longer complete even the simplest of basketball tasks.

IND 1st Half
IND 1st Half /

The full-game point totals are bad enough, but consider how badly Indiana has scored in a slew of recent first halves.

The worst performance came against the Grizzlies when the Pacers scored a season-low 30 points in the first half. But just two days later, on March 24 vs. the Bulls, they managed just 34 in the opening half. A few days before that, their total at halftime against the Knicks was 35 — and that output might be the most embarrassing half of all. We’re talking about a 35-point half against a New York team that gave up 51 points in a quarter the following week to a Lakers’ team that had the audacity to start Chris Kaman in the year of our lord twenty aught fourteen.

When I first started realizing how badly they were scoring in first halves, it seemed like an unbelievable stretch of futility. Then came last weekend — and another three games of scoring well below 40 through 24 minutes (37 vs. Washington, 36 vs. Cleveland, 35 vs. San Antonio).

Now, I’ve decided it’s just what they do.

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The pure audacity of impotency gets even more troubling though: The Pacers have not had a single 25-point quarter since the beat the Bulls on March 21. That was 25 quarters ago.

The average NBA team scores 100.8 points per game, or 25.2 points per quarter. Yet Indiana has somehow played 25 straight quarters without scoring 25 points in a quarter. And we’re not talking about a ton of times nearly getting there; in the same 25-quarter stretch, the Pacers have scored fewer than 20 points in 12 quarters.

These numbers boggle the mind. By contrast, the Pacers only failed to score 20 four times in 28 quarters against the Heat during the Eastern Conference Finals last season. And that’s in the playoffs when the game supposedly slows down and scoring gets harder.

Good grief.

Death by a Million Paper Cuts

The Pacers’ offense hasn’t been good since Larry Bird was coaching, but how did it get this bad? How could a team with five capable offensive players constantly struggle to score even 20 points in a quarter?

There is no one explanation.

Instead, we’re watching death by a million paper cuts.

Shockingly, for all the yapping the team has done about its struggle, Lance Stephenson is the one who has best articulated the problems, as reported by Candace Buckner in the Indianapolis Star.

"“I feel like just little things,” said Stephenson, taking a stab at what’s wrong. “Somebody miss a rebound, somebody miss a shot and we feel like he should’ve passed it, just messing up the whole individual game the whole time. We’re just thinking about (the mistake) and it’s showing because the next play we do the opposite thing because we’re mad at each other.”"

It is the accumulative effect of all these little problems that has caused David West to not even recognize his team anymore, as reported by Mark Montieth of

"“We barely recognize ourselves when we watch the film from months ago. We’re at the bottom. We’ve got to figure a way to climb out of this thing and put a better effort on the floor.”"

What’s wrong with the Pacers’ offense?

This is all anyone is asking me these days. And the only answer I have is: Everything.

It’s all the little things.

I can’t possibly break them all down here, but we’ll get to that soon. Consider this an introduction to the terribleness that this team’s offense has become. In the days to come, we’ll analyze the details of all these little issues are, but for now, just realize that everything is the problem.

In some ways, this should give Pacers’ fans some hope.

Little things are easier to fix than big things.

Then again, fixing so many things in such a short time is another type of challenge.