2. Poor defensive effort, especially when closing
This was disappointing, to say the least. After showing some defensive progress in Friday's win over Detroit, the Pacers seemed to forget what worked just three days ago and revert back to their old ways of not playing a lick of defense and letting players have career nights.
Before, it was Giannis Antetokounmpo and Tyrese Maxey. This time, it was Jerami Grant who exploded for 34 points on 12/18 shooting; 17 of Grant's points came in the fourth quarter alone, showcasing a disturbing trend.
Indiana has, of course, had problems with defense all season. However, there is one position that they struggle with more than anything. The Pacers cannot guard forwards at all. In almost every game this season, win or loss, the Pacers have allowed a fantastic game from the opposing team's forward.
This is indicative of a scary trend that could follow the Pacers to the grave if they match up with a team like Miami with Bam Adebayo or Milwaukee with Giannis Antetokounmpo in the playoffs.
It's not necessarily smart to put all the blame on a team's problems on one player. Indiana clearly has good defenders on their team. However, with the power forward position usually held down by Obi Toppin or the undersized Aaron Nesmith, it is hard to get consistent stops on the defensive end.
This all boils down to one thing that has been echoed by Pacers fans for the whole season: Playing Jarace Walker. If you look at the player builds and matchups, Walker matches up with just about any player on defense, especially the forwards.
With his impressive combination of size, strength, and agility, he would be fantastic to slide in at the power forward position and give the opposing team's top forward hell inside and outside.
With these attributes and abilities, it's shocking that Rick Carlisle has never used him outside of garbage time, even declining to use him when otherwise frustrated by his team's efforts on defense, like he was on Monday with Bennedict Mathurin.
Indiana has had problems on defense the entire season and will all positions. However, their struggles in dealing with good scoring forwards have been hurting them all season and should be the main issues they deal with come the trade deadline, if they are still adamant about not playing Walker.