Indiana Pacers: The good, bad and ugly from the 2020-21 season

Indiana Pacers - Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers - Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nate Bjorkgren, Indiana Pacers
Nate Bjorkgren, Indiana Pacers – Credit: Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports /

These utter mistakes ultimately derailed the Indiana Pacers this season

The Ugly No. 1: Where art thou, defense?

How the mighty Indiana Pacers defense has fallen.

After basically an entire decade of impressive showing on defense, the Blue and Gold has mightily regressed as a point-preventing squad this season, falling to 14th in defensive rating after ranking 3rd and 6th in the same department in the previous two campaigns. And if that doesn’t paint a clearer picture for you, the Pacers give up 115.3 points per game, which is the sixth-worst in the league.

Losing shot blocking phenom Myles Turner for long stretches didn’t help, but Indiana is fundamentally flawed this season. They are aggressive on defense, ranking 5th in steals and 1st in blocks, but the Pacers are proofs that being good at picking pockets and swatting shots cannot overcome the lack of an upper echelon perimeter stopper and a rim protector aside from Turner. Switching schemes on defense often have been more gimmick than genius as well.

The Ugly No. 2: Injuries, of course

If we’re being honest here, this entry should never be erased in the list of ugly things that hamper the Indiana Pacers. Injuries almost magnetically attach to the Blue and Gold so much that fans would be illogical to expect a relatively healthy season anymore.

The Pacers were off to a great 6-2 start until a season-ending injury to T.J. Warren fomented a long string of ailments for the team. Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis had their customary short-term injuries, Myles Turner was held out indefinitely, Jeremy Lamb seemed iffy in his return and LeVert was absent for more than a month due to his medical condition. Without those injuries, this season could’ve scripted itself a lot better.

I guess that’s a spiritual product of the team’s name sounding in assonance with the word “injuries”. A goofy takeaway alright, but at this point, can we really get an explanation for this yearly Indy custom?

The Ugly No. 3: New Nate never nailed it

Letting go of the old Nate for a new one seemed like poetic justice to underline the franchise’s wish for something more modern despite operating with their old-school principles. Nate Bjorkgren was an exciting addition to man the sidelines for the Indiana Pacers, but after a great start, the bell curve just went down and it never really got up again.

His reported friction with the players, mishandling of the staff, abrasive communication style and micromanagement abruptly came to light, and all those aggravated his noticeable on-court miscues running the team. From peculiar defensive schemes, laying out Thibodeau-ian minutes allocation to key cogs and head-scratching rotations, his out-of-the-box thinking has caused a lot more harm than good for the Pacers this season.

There is some context to these, as in the injuries and instability, but they don’t absolve him from his shortcomings this season. Already on the hottest of hot seats, the Indiana Pacers head into the offseason with the future of the new Nate as one of the biggest questions looming over the team, even though he still has a guaranteed year left in his contract.

Next. Bold starting lineup predictions for 2021-22. dark