Not much to say other than...well, let's just say I didn't even both finishing the game. It was one of those nights where the team just looked out of sorts and lacked energy and didn't defend and couldn't hit open shots or free throws and kept getting blocked at the rim. The Knicks busted the Pacers' horrendous defense wide open from the first quarter and cruised to a 115-100 victory that really should have been a 30-40 point difference (it was 30 at the end of three) but for the extended garbage time.
Good for Linsanity and the Knicks and new head coach Mike Woodson, whose facial hair resembles a rug made of pubes. Back to the drawing board for the Pacers, who have reverted to the Jekyll and Hyde mode we're so used to seeing.
It could be good or it could be bad news -- either way the Pacers play the Knicks again, tomorrow, in Indiana this time. Maybe they can return the favor. Will new recruit Leandro Barbosa make his debut?
Okay, so I was skeptical after the 92-75 blowout over the Blazers yesterday. But now I am glad to say the Pacers look like they are officially back on track after another blowout tonight, this time a 111-94 win against arch rivals the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Blazers have been sucking bad lately, so it's understandable that the Pacers, who had also been struggling of late, would beat them back home in Indiana. This latest win against the 76ers, however, was a statement game. These two teams are similar in many ways, with no real superstar but a bunch of very capable guys playing team basketball.
The Pacers probably have more talent on paper, but the 76ers seem to be more mature and stable. Either way, it was good to get a win against a team they might be facing in the first round of the playoffs, and it's comforting to know that if the two teams met now, the (25-16) Pacers would have home court advantage against the (25-18) 76ers.
No need to analyze the game too much but it was another team effort. Whereas last night the biggest surprise was porn star Lou Amundson's career high 21 points on 10-11 shooting, tonight it was the team's overall 56.6% shooting from the field with only 7 turnvoers.
David West appears to be finally rounding into form with his 18-point, 8-12 night, and Granger shot well with 20 points on 8-13. Hibbert had 14 and 9 with a team high 5 assists and 3 blocks (about time he snapped out of it) and George Hill led the reserves with 17 points, 7 boards and 4 assists on 7-10 shooting, while Hansbrough had another good one with 14 points on 6-9 shooting.
Solid effort, and it will be interesting to see if they can keep it up with an away-and-home against Linsanity and the New York Knicks, who appear to have locked up a win at last against the Blazers (game in progress as I type).
I think it's pretty clear where this year's Pacers team is at, after their fourth consecutive loss, a 107-94 drubbing at the hands of the Magic in Orlando. This team is good enough to beat the crap teams but struggle to beat the good ones. Occasionally, if all cylinders are clicking, if guys are playing up to their potential or if Vogel works his motivation magic, the Pacers can top those good teams, but you, me and everyone knows they won't be able to do it four times in a seven game series.
That's actually not a bad place to be. We keep forgetting that last year, while the team could still occasionally beat a giant, they struggled against the crap teams too, losing stacks of games they shouldn't have lost. That has been cut to a minimum this season, and I think it's a positive step.
At the moment, the Pacers, like everyone else in the East, is a few steps behind the Heat and the Bulls. They are also a step or two behind the Magic. Teams like Atlanta and Philly are roughly on their level, but with the way the Pacers are playing now I would say they are slightly behind those guys, even though the Pacers are ahead of the Hawks on the standings.
That would make the Pacers a likely 6th seed, which would match them up against the Magic -- provided the Magic keep Dwight Howard for the rest of the season. If not, the Magic could slip, giving the Pacers a good chance to grab a top four spot if they can get their act together and keep up with Philly and the Hawks. At this stage, it's hard to envision the Celtics or the Knicks overtaking the Pacers, but I think they are teams that could make the Pacers sweat a little.
So where is the problem? Where do we even begin? Obviously, the lack of a superstar hurts, but the team now has three former All-Stars in Granger, West and Hibbert, and a potential future one in Paul George. That should be good enough. Not every team can get their hands on a Lebron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh...
Nevertheless, Granger still shoots too much at too low a percentage (though in his defense he is trying); Hibbert is up and down -- and right now he is about as low as he has been all year; and West is still getting used to his post-surgery body and new team. It looks like a great nucleus on paper but it's actually a very fragile one.
A lot of people complain about the undersized Darren Collison at the point, saying that the team needs an elite PG. Those are hard to come by as well, and Collison should be serviceable with a lineup like this. He had great assist numbers for Chris Paul in the pick and roll setting but on the Pacers his passing has struggled. George Hill could fill in as the starter but he's not a natural passer.
Is the bench the problem? Er...yes. George Hill has shown he can produce in spurts, but he's been unlucky with injuries this season. Same as Jeff Foster, who seems to always be injured. Tyler Hansbrough, who tore up the preseason, has been "figured out" by the defense, so to speak. He's been so awful it's hard to watch sometimes. So that leaves...Dahntay Jones as the number one bench player? Holy crap. Lance Stephenson? Too young and too much of a headcase still. Second rounder AJ Price? Serviceable...at times...for a second rounder. The shit sandwich of Amundson and Pendergraph? Hard workers but not enough talent or ability. Now that I think about it, it's actually a miracle the Pacers are doing so well!
The team has talent and cap space. Are they happy to keep being in the middle of the pack or will they make a move that will make them contenders? It might still take a couple of years but it'll be interesting to see if Bird can pull a rabbit out of his hat.
All I wanted was for the Pacers to not get smashed again against the Miami Heat like they did the last time these two teams met. Well, the Pacers not only not get embarrassed, they almost, and probably should have, won the game, which actually makes me feel a little worse.
After leading for the majority of the game after a stellar first quarter, the Pacers and Heat went toe to toe until Lebron James decided to take over in the fourth quarter and send the game to overtime. The Pacers looked like they were going to win it in OT too, until a few mistakes and a ridiculous jumper from D-Wade (who probably got fouled as well) with 0.1 seconds left against Paul George. Game over. Pacers lose 93-91, their third consecutive loss.
No moral victories here, though it's tempting to say that the Pacers showed they could hang with one of the best teams in the NBA, if not THE best. But hanging with and beating are two different things, and the Heat again showed why they are the favorites to win the title this year.
I wonder what might have happened had Jeff Foster or George Hill played tonight (both out with injuries), or if Roy Hibbert could snap out of the stinking funk he is right now. He is barely playing at an NBA level right now, let alone All-Star level. Hibbert was 2-11 with 5 points and 7 rebounds against little guys like Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman, guys he ought to have dominated.
Fortunately, Danny Granger stepped up -- which meant he didn't get completely annihilated by Lebron James as he usually does. Granger had 19 points and 7 boards, which doesn't compare well to Lebron's 27, 8 and 4, but this is Lebron James we're talking about, and Granger can hold his head up high for keeping the King in check for 3 of the game's 4 quarters.
Pacers head over to play the other Florida team tomorrow. I don't like their chances but if they can build upon this disappointing loss they'll have a chance. Let's hope Dwight Howard has his mind on other things, you know, with the trade deadling coming up and all...
Okay, so the March 15 trade deadline is coming up and the Pacers have been at the forefront of some rumors.
The list of candidates, as of now, are New Orleans big man Chris Kaman, Blazers swingman Jamal Crawford, Grizzlies swingman OJ Mayo, Wolves tweener Michael Beasley, Bobcats center Boris Diaw and former Pacer Stephen Jackson.
While all of these guys present something positive for the Pacers, none of them look real likely at the moment. And none of them would give the Pacers something that would allow them to compete with the likes of Miami and Chicago. Seriously, I know Indiana is not the most enviable location for marque players, but isn't there someone the Pacers can get with all that cap space?
Kaman has been decent since returning to the Hornets lineup, and he will provide a big body to back up Hibbert and David West. Hansbrough has been awful, Foster is always hurt and Amundson and Pendergraph are...well, let's not go there. I'd say he'd be a good addition, but if the Pacers have to give up a first round draft pick in next year's loaded draft, would that be worth it?
The other big man is Boris Diaw, who is long but is supposedly only 6'8" and out of shape. He has tremendous passing skill and is versatile when he tries, but maybe he's too far gone to have an impact on the team this season.
Jamal Crawford and OJ Mayo are guys the team could use as they don't have many guys that can create their own shot and provided a much needed basket when the offense becomes stagnant. But both are volume shooters and they would take away both shots and minutes away from guys like Paul George and George Hill.
There are reports that Portland is asking for AJ Price and a first round pick, but perhaps that is asking for too much, especially as Crawford is a free agent soon and it will probably be a short term rental. OJ Mayo is someone the Pacers had been after before and almost got a couple of times but things kept falling through, so unless something changes it doesn't look like he'll be coming this way.
Last, but not least, Beasley and Jax, two talented SFs who can be unstoppable at times. But both are knuckleheads and it's highly doubtful that Bird would want either after finally purging the team of questionable character guys (one of which was Jackson) after the brawl.
I say the Pacers stay put for now. Go after a real game changer in the offseason.