The Clippers just came off a huge victory against the LA Lakers the day before in a game that finished late, and they had to back up today in a 3:30 EST game. They were on a high against the defending champs in a sold-out crowd, and were due for a letdown against a team like the Pacers, who have been struggling and coming in under the radar.
In all honesty, the Pacers should have come out, taken an early lead, and won this game. But instead? Blake Griffin scores a career high 47 points in 37 minutes with single coverage all night as the Clips took the game 114-107.
Where do I start? The Pacers are now 16-22, and any hope that they will regain the intensity and focus and confidence they had at the start of the season is fading fast.
Let's start with the coach.
Jim O'Brien continues to baffle with his decision making. All he does is call out his players when they play bad, make them lose confidence, yap at the officials and get untimely technical fouls.
Danny Granger may have had 32 points tonight to lead the way, but he has been one of the most disappointing players this season. Sure he can score, but he has been erratic, can shoot himself out of a game, can't finish at the rim, and most of all -- he's NOT defending! Granger is supposed to be a leader but he's not leading by example. His defense has not been up to scratch lately and he's not showing the effort he's supposed to. He's constantly getting blown by, giving up wide open shots and getting outmuscled for rebounds. He may have been a big time player once but not anymore. In a big possession in the fourth today I watched Granger toss up a weak pass that got picked off and then not even get back on defense as the Clippers went on a break and closed out the game an easy hoop. Unacceptable.
Roy Hibbert -- man...only played 12 minutes this game saddled with foul trouble. I'm getting worried about him. He's regressing so fast it's like he's Benjamin Button. I've never seen a player start off a season so well, so confident, and regress to the stage he is now. Will he ever get back on his feet? Will he ever be able to make a shot again? At this stage, with the way the team is playing, I'm not sure.
Darren Collison -- finally, a player that has actually been getting better on this team. Collison had a confident 30 points, 8 assists and 3 steals tonight, and he's been looking more like the player the Pacers thought they got in the big trade -- at least on the offensive end. Collison still can't defend very well but at least he is leading the team and making plays. But the real reason for his rise as of late? More minutes. Collison played 39 minutes tonight, and my goodness I hope he plays this many every night. I can't watch another botched wide open layup by TJ Ford.
Paul George -- give the kid more minutes dammit! Only played 11 minutes. JOB, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Same goes for Tyler Hansbrough. Only played 16 minutes, which is bizarre considering he actually had the most success against Blake Griffin because of his size and agility. But instead, JOB went with Granger and James Posey for much of the game (that really happened) and allowed Griffin to go nuts.
Mike Dunleavy -- smart player, good size, tries hard, but really, can't defend and when his shot is off (like if occasionally is), a liability for the team. He was 1 of 10 tonight.
Jeff Foster -- look, he's not great, but he gets the job done. And who else are the Pacers going to use? Solomon Jones? What about the guy that has gone from starting PF to the guy that disappeared off the face of the planet, Josh McRoberts? Can JOB explain that one?
Last, but not least, Brandon Rush. I like Rush's improvement this season, but it's not enough. He still lacks the aggression night in night out that would make him one of the better two-guards int he league. He can shoot, he can defend and he can drive -- but he can still play 39 minutes (like he did tonight) and take only 8 shots. Rush should be a top 3 option on the team whenever he steps onto the court.
Well, I've calmed down a little. A sour start to the Pacers' 4-game road trip. They are now 16-22 and next head to Golden State to take on the Warriors before taking on Portland and Denver back to back over the weekend.
What can fix this team? There's no one single answer. All the players and the coaching staff need to take a long look in the mirror and start getting serious. Playing defense will help. Hitting shots will help. Playing hard will help. Hopefully they will wake up.