The Indiana Pacers just suffered a grueling loss to the Miami Heat, which they were leading by double digits at various points of the game but eventually lost. In the second quarter, the Pacers were up by as many as 13 points before a second-half collapse.
Said collapse was primarily due to fourth-quarter misfortunes that gave Miami a lead they would never look back on despite the Pacers' fruitless attempts to come back in the end.
There were many factors to this loss, including Indiana missing key free throws down the stretch, awful defense in the fourth, and scoring droughts, and most can be attributed to Buddy Hield's wildly frustrating play in the fourth.
While Hield wasn't particularly great in the first three quarters, the fourth quarter made things even worse for the veteran sharpshooter as he scored six points on 2/9 from the field and 2/7 from three, hitting his only two threes on 11 attempts at the start and end of the quarter.
Despite this awful play, Hield was in the game for almost the entire fourth quarter, playing 11 minutes and 51 seconds and only sitting out nine seconds at the end due to fouling out.
This seemingly minor problem that only affected one game is part of a bigger problem the Pacers have been dealing with the entire season. That problem is Rick Carlisle's insistence on veterans and stubbornness when it comes to youngsters, especially rookies.
By this point, Carlisle's mishandling of Jarace Walker should be known to every Pacers fan. Despite having an NBA-ready body and skillset, Walker has gotten miniscule time so far in his career, only playing 41 minutes across four games, all being in garbage time.
With Indiana's well-documented defensive shortcomings this season, many have suggested that playing Walker would be a good decision for a team that needs some defense and secondary playmaking to complement Tyrese Haliburton and even take over for a short while when he's not on the floor.
Indiana's playmaking and offensive motor take a nosedive with the engine of their offense sitting on the bench, and playing a guy like Walker would do wonders for the team.
Despite this, while Indiana was getting embarrassed on defense and Tyrese Haliburton was getting double-teamed and trapped on offense, Jarace Walker was sitting on the bench the entire time waiting for his number to be called, a call he eventually got with only nine seconds left in the game.
That's right, the only time Jarace Walker got to step foot in a game that could have used his services was in the final nine minutes due to Buddy Hield fouling out.
Speaking of Hield, this problem stems back to him and his horrible performance on the night. Many Pacers fans have criticized Carlisle for giving Hield a bigger leash than the other players, notably youngsters like Bennedict Mathurin.
This has been more than evident in games, with younger players like Mathurin and Walker having to look over their shoulder every few minutes in case they make a mistake and hear their name being called out, while older players like Hield can feel more free to make mistakes knowing they have Carlisle's support.
This has bothered Pacers fans for quite a while now, enough to the point that they feel compelled to call it out, and for good reason. On a young, developing team like Indiana that still wants to win games, there should be no reason for a soon-to-be 31-year-old to be allowed to make all the mistakes he can and play the entire fourth quarter despite missing shot after shot and not helping on defense at all.
We are currently 17 games into the season. As I stated in my previous encounter talking about this very issue, we needed to give Carlisle some time before calling him out and holding him accountable for his rotational choices.
That was several games ago.
So far, nothing has changed. We have been seeing the same stagnant rotations hit the floor, despite better options sitting on the bench waiting to be called in.
It's already December. There is only so much more time we can give Carlisle before this becomes a serious issue and something that could have drastic consequences.