Pacers Report Cards: Grading every Pacers player's first-round performance

How did every Indiana Pacer perform in the team's first playoff series win since 2014?
Milwaukee Bucks v Indiana Pacers - Game Six
Milwaukee Bucks v Indiana Pacers - Game Six / Dylan Buell/GettyImages
10 of 11

Rick Carlisle

Now that the players have been graded? How about Rick?

First of all, Rick Carlisle in wins was very different from Rick Carlisle in losses in almost the exact way. In Game 1, Carlisle made the surprising choice of running with a 10-man rotation, playing Jalen Smith and Doug McDermott for substantial minutes despite other teams shortening their rotations in the playoffs.

Additionally, Carlisle also ran some lineups without Tyrese Haliburton or Pascal Siakam on the floor, even doing it when Indiana gained momentum and cut down Milwaukee's lead in the second half. If Rick Carlisle kept up the coaching job in Game 1 for the rest of the series, his job may have been at stake.

Thankfully, Carlisle adjusted beautifully in the following three games, cutting the rotation to the aforementioned eight players and making sure one of Haliburton or Siakam was on the floor at all times. This led to two blowouts and one close win, which was initially a blowout before Milwaukee came back. If Rick Carlisle had kept up that coaching job for one more game, Indiana would have had a five-game series win on their hands.

This was not the case, as Carlisle once again expanded the rotation in Game 5, this time adding McDermott and Isaiah Jackson, both of whom were clearly unprepared for playoff basketball. As the game went on, Carlisle showed more flaws as a coach, inexplicably running a lineup consisting of Tyrese Haliburton and four bench players after Indiana cut Milwaukee's lead to nine. This ultimately led to a Game 5 loss.

Sure enough, in Game 6, Carlisle smartened up with the rotations. Nine players played double-digit minutes in Game 6, with Isaiah Jackson getting 10 minutes because of foul trouble by Myles Turner. Ultimately, McConnell and Toppin having the games of their lives made Carlisle's job much easier, as he was allowed to rest the starters for extended periods of time and let the bench go at it. This strategy clearly worked out, as Indiana took Game 6 and the series.

As a result, Carlisle's netted his first playoff series win in 13 years, dating back to when he won the championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Since then, he has clearly grown as a coach and given the players more freedom, as we saw in the regular season. However, his Xs and Os still leave something to be desired, and his rotations are a point of concern going forward.

Hopefully, Games 1 and 5 taught Carlisle everything he needed to know going forward, and he will play smarter rotations in the second round. With the first-round win, Carlisle essentially cemented his spot as Indiana's coach for the future, and with an entire summer to assess his team, expectations are high for next year, as well as for the coming round.

Final Grade: B- (Started off bad, but made adjustments and took care of business)