Remember when the Knicks and Pacers used to be a heated rivalry? Yeah, I missed those days too.
Right now, however, the Knicks are in a different class. One team had only lost one game all season. The other was 4-6. They have Carmelo Anthony, and the closest thing the Pacers have (had) is Danny Granger, who remains out with a knee injury.
So the result was not unexpected, although I was hoping the Pacers would have been able to make more of a game out of it. The final score was 88-76, but it wasn't close after half time.
Disappointing, considering the Pacers finally put together a strong effort before that against the Mavs.
On the bright side, they have a great chance to bounce back again against the winless Wizards.
Things couldn't have gotten much worse for the Pacers, so it was good to see them get an easy win against a team they have been very incestuous with, the Dallas Mavericks (103-83).
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle used to be the Pacers' head coach. Former Pacers head coach Jim O'Brien is now an assistant coach for the Mavs. Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones from the Pacers effectively went to the Mavs for Ian Mahinmi during the offseason. And Troy Murphy, who is now a Mav, also used to be on the Pacers. Oh, plus OJ Mayo and Chris Kaman were guys that the Pacers targeted during free agency but ended up in Dallas.
Anyway, it wasn't so much a win as the WAY the Pacers achieved the win. Coach Vogel challenged the team to make changes and make plays for each other, and they responded by scoring 103 points, their second most of the season. George Hill and David West had 15 points apiece to lead 6 players in double figures. Sam Young and Lance Stephenson also both played well, but Roy Hibbert continued to struggle with his shot, even though he ended up with 14 and 8.
Hibbert is still missing point blank shots he should be making in his sleep, but his effort and persistence have been encouraging. Hopefully this is a step forward for him and the team, but I think we need a larger sample to be certain that the team has gotten over the hump. The next game is on the road against the New York Knicks, who only lost their first game of the season today against Memphis. It's got disaster written all over it but if the Pacers can pull out a win or even just give a good showing it will prove that this game against the Mavs wasn't a fluke and the team is heading in the right direction.
It's been a pretty disgusting season thus far if you are a Pacers fan, and last year's miracle run to the second round appears to have been a fluke.
Granted, it's probably still too early to write off this team, but the signs have rarely been worse. On Tuesday, they scored just 72 points in a loss against the Raptors, and this was after managing to hold the Raptors to just 5 points in the 4th quarter. Today, the lost by 14 to the Bucks, and this was after being down by 29 points after the 3rd quarter.
There are too many problems to know where to begin. Frank Vogel is known as a coach who preaches "smashmouth basketball", but now his team is just being smashed in the mouth. The motivational tactics that worked so well last season don't appear to be working anymore, and one has to wonder if Vogel is on the hotseat after this horrendous 3-6 start. And it's not just the record either -- it's the way this Pacers team has been playing. Yes, they don't have Danny Granger, but it's no excuse for being the second worst team in the league in terms of offensive efficiency. The offense has been practically non-existent in the last few games, and the sets and plays seem so simple that even an amateur can pick them apart.
On the players' side, the lone bright spots have been Lance Stephenson's emergence and the resurgent play of Tyler Hansbrough, but these two guys are supposed to be fringe role players.
The big money man, Roy Hibbert, has been absolutely atrocious, and Portland must be thanking their lucky stars that the Pacers matched their offer. George Hill has tried to take on a scoring role, but maybe he is still hampered by injuries -- or maybe he's just not that good. Paul George is developing but his offense hasn't improved as much as anticipated.
Out of the three new guys, only Gerald Green has been occasionally good, while DJ Augustin and Ian Mahinmi have been disappointments.
It's not going to get much easier either. The Pacers next play the Mavs on Friday, and I'm sure Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones will be desperate to show their old team what they're missing. After that they play the currently undefeated Knicks, before getting a much better chance at earning a win against the Wizards, though at this point nothing is certain.
The Pacers need to regroup, fix their broken offense and get their confidence back. Simple as that.
Phew. That was close. In another grind-out game, the Pacers put away the Wizards 89-85 in just their second home game of the season, snapping a 3-game losing streak to improve to 3-4 for the season.
The Pacers looked loke they were ready to lose another one for the majority of the game, constantly playing catchup from behind as former Pacer AJ Price dictated the Wizards offence. He finished with a career high 14 assists to go with 12 points and 0 turnovers. And you wonder why the Pacers let him go for DJ Augustin, who continues to struggle with just 3 points and 2 assists in 14 minutes.
At the end of the first and second quarters the Pacers managed to hit last second shots to be up by 1 and tied, respectively -- but otherwise the Wizards were the better team in the first half. The Pacers didn't really turn it on until the final quarter, led by Tyler Hansbrough's crazy antics and throwing his body around all over the place. Hansbrough finished with only 6 points and 6 rebounds while shooting a dismal 4-12 from the line, but his energy was the reason the Pacers were able to make a comeback in the end.
Paul George had a solid game with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, including the clinching free throws. And don't understate the importance of those free throws -- the Pacers were up by 7 when the Wizards hit a quick 3 and then a 2, cutting the lead down to just 2. If George handn't hit both the Wizards would have had a chance to tie or win at the buzzer.
Lance Stephenson started in the place of Sam Young and played solidly at shooting guard with 12 points on 5-7 shooting to go along with 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Paul George got shifted to the small forward position, and I am hoping tonight's performance is an indication that he is more suited to that role in the offense.
David West struggled with his shot (4-16) and finished with 11 points and just 4 rebounds, but he was responsible for some key baskets, including the one that put the Pacers up by 7 with less than 2 minutes to go. Roy Hibbert was again just awful (7 and 12 on 3-15 shooting, though he did have 8 offensive rebounds); slow footed and wasting too much time every time he was fed the ball in the post. Considering he was often being guarded by the undersized Omeka Okafor, the performance was embarrassing. Time to step it up, Roy.
So in the end, an ugly win against a winless team, but it should help boost a little bit of confidence. I like the new starting lineup of Hill, Stephenson, George, West and Hibbert. The next game is at home again on Tuesday against the Raptors, the team the Pacers edged in the opening game of the season and will be hungry for revenge.
George Hill was on fire. A three point play and a three-pointer helped the Pacers tie the game with the Timberwolves at 94 with less than 4 seconds left. On the Wolves' final possession, new addition Gerald Green momentarily lost track of his man, Chase Budinger. Pass. Lay up. Game over. Pacers fall to 2-4 to start the 2012-2013 season.
There's no doubting it anymore. The Pacers are struggling and need help. It's no longer a question of whether this team will challenge the Heat in the East -- even making the playoffs is now in serious question. On the bright side, the Pacers have played 5 of their 6 games on the road so far. There's still 75 games left and plenty of time to right the ship. Danny Granger will eventually be back (even though he might not be 100%).
But there are plenty of issues to be addressed and it looks like perhaps this team is not as good as we thought it was. David West and George Hill are now the indisputed alpha dogs with Granger out. They are the team's go-to guys, and rightfully so. Paul George has shown he is not ready to carry the load offensively. He has made strides to his overall game, but his scoring and shooting percentages remain relatively weak. Roy Hibbert, sigh, might never be more than what he is now. The Pacers had no choice to overpay him over the summer and everyone loves what he does in the community and with the fans. But let's be real. He hasn't come close to playing like a max player. Not even a solid starting NBA center, which is the absolute minimum of what is expected of him. It's depressing.
The biggest problem to me is the poor play of the trio of newcomers who were supposed to improve the team. As Darren Collison continues to break out in Dallas, DJ Augustin has struggled mightily. I don't think I've ever seen his confidence this low, and I've seen him play on the worst team of all time in Charlotte. Gerald Green can score, but as we saw tonight, his defense and shot selection still leaves a lot to be desired. And with the way Hibbert has been playing so far, you'd think Mahinmi could steal some more minutes.
The only major positive I've seen apart from Hill being ready to step up and West's recovery is -- I never thought I'd say this -- Lance Stephenson. There's not much to say except he's finally ready.