Pacers Report Cards: Grading every Pacers player's overall playoff performance

How did every Indiana Pacer perform in the team's first playoff run in four years?
Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game Seven
Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game Seven / Elsa/GettyImages
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Rick Carlisle

Rick Carlisle's 2024 playoff run with Indiana did two things. It solidified his spot as the team's head coach for the long run, but it also exposed some of the flaws that have haunted him since that improbable 2011 championship run with Dallas.

Let's start with the positives. in the first two rounds, it felt like every time Carlisle made a mistake in a game, he fixed it immediately after. For example, after running an extended rotation in Game 1 of the Bucks series which led to multiple players underperforming, he shortened the rotation to around nine players going forward, removing Doug McDermott and Jalen Smith from the rotation.

Additionally, when Carlisle realized that the Andrew Nembhard defensive matchup was not working on Jalen Brunson after the first half of Game 5 in the Knicks series, he made a change and put Aaron Nesmith on him, who had success before the matchup and since.

In fact, not only did Carlisle make Nesmith the primary defender on Brunson, but he orchestrated a defense where Brunson got double-teamed and trapped multiple times down the floor, rendering his offensive containable.

Carlisle has also stuck up for his players on multiple occasions. Most notably, after Indiana dropped the first two games against the New York Knicks, Carlisle filed a complaint with the league and sent multiple questionable calls and no-calls to the league office to have them investigated.

This essentially sent a message to the league that the Pacers would not tolerate any biased officiating, and they wanted a fair chance, along with all small-market teams, as Carlisle said in his post-game interview.

Now for the negatives. For one, Carlisle's late-game execution was not good at all. Especially in the Celtics series, three of the four games should have gone in Indiana's favor, with the most egregious loss coming in Game 1 after a failure to call timeout resulted in an improbable win.

In Game 2, Carlisle caused more controversy when he decided to rest his starters in the fourth quarter of a reasonably close game. In Game 3, more failure to execute in late-game situations. With Indiana already having blown an 18-point lead, Andrew Nembhard had the ball and was tightly guarded by three Celtics going down the floor with less than 10 seconds remaining. Instead of calling a timeout and getting a chance for a better shot, Carlisle opted to let them play, which he immediately regretted after Jrue Holiday picked Nembhard's pocket to seal the game and the series.

Additionally, the defense was just not up to par in the series. Now, it is debatable how much of that is Carlisle's fault compared to the assistant coaches and the players themselves, but he certainly did not help. Indiana threw countless double teams after screens in the Boston series and let the Celtics get open three after open three. This ultimately helped cost the Pacers the series in the end along with the aforementioned blunders.

However, after what Carlisle did in the first two rounds, and how far he got this team after the meager expectations to start the season, he is not going anywhere, and rightfully so. Some of the problems he had can be fixed with another offseason to get familiar with this team.

Perhaps some new assistant coaches could even be of use, primarily on the defensive end. Either way. there is room for improvement from Rick Carlisle's end, but making the Conference Finals in the third year of a rebuild and your second year back coaching the team is always a plus.

Final Grade: B (He will be Indiana's coach for a long time, but still needs some work)