Why the Indiana Pacers shouldn’t panic any time soon

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 22: Cory Joseph #6 of the Indiana Pacers looks on as referee Ashley Moyer-Gleich #75 calls him for a foul on a three-point shot by Minnesota Timberwolves during the game on October 22, 2018 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 22: Cory Joseph #6 of the Indiana Pacers looks on as referee Ashley Moyer-Gleich #75 calls him for a foul on a three-point shot by Minnesota Timberwolves during the game on October 22, 2018 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

The Indiana Pacers are 2-2 with a pair of disappointing road losses, but it is hardly the time to panic… yet.

The Indiana Pacers are 2-2. Victor Oladipo isn’t playing the same way he did last year, Myles Turner isn’t grabbing ‘enough’ rebounds, and the word regression is being thrown around like John Cena when he faced Brock Lesnar at the 2014 SummerSlam.

Perhaps most tragically, the victory song has only been heard twice this season.

But this is hardly the time to panic. At least not yet.  The Pacers two losses are explainable even if they aren’t palatable. The wins where over not-so-good teams, but the losses had elements in them can’t be expected to happen every time.

On top of that, there are issues one would expect early in the season that only become concerning if they can’t resolve themselves over time.

Indiana Pacers: Road Worriers?

This isn’t to overly defend the mistakes or issues that might be forming, but when the calendar still says October, it’s hardly time to panic.

In the loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana faced a combination of factors that favored their opponent. They faced a Bucks team that they didn’t really have a scouting report for thanks to the hiring of Mike Budenholzer.

These weren’t Jason Kidd’s Bucks, that’s for sure.

From Milwaukee’s media notes:

"Milwaukee attempted a franchise record 46 3-pointers on 10/19, knocking down 17 of thoseattempts (two shy of tying the franchise record of 19). After tallying 14 threes in the seasonopener, this is just the second time in franchise history that Milwaukee has made 14 or morethrees in consecutive games (11/14/09-11/16/09). The Bucks 31 threes are the most in a two-game span in franchise history."

The Pacers looked out of sorts thanks to the barrage of 3-pointers that stretched them out, but Milwaukee also got Indiana out of their transition offense as well. Oladipo, Turner, and Tyreke Evans went a combined 19 of 45, which certainly didn’t help either.

The opening of a new arena added energy, too.

The loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves saw the bench score 21 points, well below their 44.8 points per a game average. Despite a tie for the most efficient bench in the league with the Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana’s reserves were nearly outscored by Bojan Bogdanovic on Monday.

The Timberwolves needed a huge fourth quarter from the to put the Pacers away. It was far from a slow and steady march to victory for Minnesota.

None of this excuses some of the turnovers or questionable shot selection at times, but it isn’t as if these games were normal by any means. The Bucks had a historically great shooting night while the Wolves dodged Indiana’s bench.

The Pacers still need Oladipo to stop trying so hard to make things happen. He doesn’t always need to make himself a battering ram and could help out Darren Collison by keeping him more engaged. Bojan needs to play better defense, too.

But unless everyone keeps having outlier performances against the Pacers, it’s hard to overreact to a pair of road losses.

There are still lineup issues to sort out

While Indiana is running back the same starting group from last year and the bench is extremely talented, that doesn’t mean their cohesive yet.

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Cory Joseph and Domantas Sabonis are back, but they now are learning to play with Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott. Last season, it was mostly the Domas and Lance Stephenson show — Indiana’s favorite buddy film, though it had poor ratings. Last year, the Pacers took the good and the bad when Stephenson was the primary ball-handler off the bench  This year Domas and CoJo are working with two other players who deserve the ball as much as they do.

Top of that, the blended lineups — a mix of starters and bench players — are still a work in progress. One lineup — Young, Evans, Joseph, McDermott, and Sabonis — has a net rating of +47. But there are others that have a heavy amount of starters in them that struggle to defend or score. It’s worth noting, though, of Indiana’s top five most-used lineups, four have positive net ratings.

The players and coaches both are figuring out what works and what doesn’t. This early in the season is very much the trial and error stage.

We know this bench is better than last season’s, it’s already showing up in the stats. It isn’t like in years past when the Pacers added to the bench and you knew deep down they hadn’t upgraded in any way. This year’s bench simply is more talented than ones in recent years.

It’s going to take time, but it’s more likely than not they’ll figure it out.

It’s only four games

Last year Indiana started out 2-2 and hovered around .500 until around the start of the new year. Their record stood at 19-19 at one point.

They finished the season 14 games above .500 and nearly grabbed home-court advantage in the first round. Despite never building a win-streak longer than five games (something they did three times), Indiana won 48 games while finally figuring out the who, what, when, and where with their lineup.

It shouldn’t take as long this year as the starters are already established, but there’s still very much a feeling out process that needs doing. The Pacers will learn to adjust more to their opponents and figure out what does and doesn’t work.

The week ahead: Road trip drama. dark. Next

It’s October. Let’s calm down a little, OK?