Did I see it coming? Perhaps. Did I think it would be this bad? No. Getting slammed by Miami again was foreseeable, but getting trounced by the Cavs? Ouch.
Does anyone still think this team is a contender? I don't think so. I don't think even they believe it anymore.
That said, I don't think it'll be like last season, when this team crumbled so badly that it got Jim O'Brien fired. They'll bounce back, but whether they'll keep winning at the previous rate is a big question mark.
The good thing is that they get a quick opportunity to redeem themselves, with the third game of their back-to-back-to-back tomorrow against the New Jersey Nets, a team they've beaten twice already this season.
Will the streak continue? I hope not.
Can't believe I'm typing this but I'm going to go check out some Jeremy Lin hightlights.
Lost in the Linsanity phenomenon over the past week was the fact that the Indiana Pacers, who previously prided themselves in not losing consecutive games all season, have now dropped three straight.
After the lousy loss to the Hawks, the Pacers promptly lost their next couple of games, both close ones, against Memphis (98-92) and Denver (113-109), respectively.
Remember when the Nuggets visited the Fieldhouse last time? Yes, it was the game where the Pacers shot the lights out in that historic third quarter where they missed just one shot (thanks McBob) and racked up 144 points on the night.
This time, not so lucky.
Even with the losses, the Pacers are still 17-10 and are on a 42-win pace in a 66 game season. That's still awesome. But the question is whether they can maintain this pace over the remainder of the season.
The team obviously has been in a funk as of late, lacking in energy and desperation against teams they could have and probably should have beaten. It seems when one player is up (eg, Paul George and Roy Hibbert), other players are down (eg, David West and Danny Granger), and vice versa. The other big problem is the bench, which can't have George Hill back soon enough. Tyler Hansbrough is appearing to break out of his slump, and Jeff Foster is finally back, but it's not nearly enough. The previously celebrated Pacers depth is suddenly starting to look like an illusion.
No time to whine though. The Pacers are about to face the Miami Heat again, and the last time these two teams met it wasn't pretty.
Will the Pacers suffer their fourth consecutive loss, or will they put together a sorely needed effort and get back on track?
Forgot to post about that awful loss to the Hawks the other night, so here's the highlights.
In short, the Pacers stunk up the joint. It was another one of those lousy efforts that elite teams should never have, even in a crazy condensed season. Should the Pacers be worried? Yes. They are at 17-8, still 4th in the East and very impressive, but as a team they are starting to show signs of slippage. Look at the upcoming schedule: @Memphis, Denver, Miami, @Cleveland, New Jersey, Charlotte, New Orleans, Charlotte. The first three are all dangerous opponents, and even though the rest of them aren't much to look at, they are played within the space of 8 days. The Miami, Cleveland and New Jersey games is the first back-to-back-to-back for the Pacers this season and it'll be interesting to see how the do.
The good news, of course, is that Roy Hibbert has been selected as an All-Star reserve in the East. Given the dearth of centers in the East and the Pacers' early success, big Roy is an obvious choice, even though his numbers (13.6 points, 9.9 rebounds) aren't exactly remarkable. A good experience for Roy, even though I would have preferred for him to get some rest. The All-Star game isn't really a game for post-up, unathletic centers like the big fella, though I'm looking forward to him showing off his passing skills.
By now you should know that the Indiana Pacers gave up a massive 21 point lead againt the Utah Jazz before finally waking up and earning a tougher-than-it-should've-been 104-99 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers had a few guys that player well (Collison in particular, Hibbert, and Granger when it mattered), but what must be worrying is the team's continued inability to close out games that they appear to have in hand. Remember last year when the Pacers held those big leads against the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs, only to lose 3 of those 4 games? I had initially chalked that down to the greatness of Derrick Rose and that Bulls team, but the continuing trend this season is a concern.
The one that most will remember is that debacle in Sacramento, when the Pacers simply melted away and allowed the Kings to steal certain victory from the Pacers' grasps, but there have been numerous games where the Pacers have given up big leads. Sure, they won a lot of those games by digging deep in crunch time, but what it does illustrate is the team's lack of killer instinct. To be honest, many of those wins came from luck or from the other team imploding at the last minute.
The argument that the Pacers don't have a legitimate go-to-guy or superstar is not as salient these days, considering committee teams such as Philadelphia and Denver are getting it done with arguably less talent. It's human nature to ease up when ahead, but the Pacers often appear to fall asleep when they have a big lead, playing lots of one-on-one, throwing up tough jumpers early into the shot clock, making lazy passes, not boxing out and not getting back on defense. It was more understandable last year and the year before, considering how young the core of this team is, but if the Pacers want to become serious contenders, they need to close games out.
Point differentials are the sign of a quality team. Looking at the standings now, the Pacers are 17-7, just half a game behind Philly (18-7), but their point differential stands at just +3.4, way behind the league leading 76ers who are at a full +10. For contending teams like the Heat (+8.0) and the Bulls (+9.2) with their superstars, it's understandable -- you rarely see them (especially the Bulls) give up big leads against inferior teams. But a team like Philly, which has the similar multi-weapon model as the Pacers, the contrast is startling.
Not to be a party pooper beacuse the Pacers ought to be very proud of their record thus far (and especially the calibre of opponents they have beaten), but if they want to win one or possibly two series in the playoffs, they need to start developing that killer instinct they sorely miss right now.
Yes, the Pacers lost to the Orlando Magic at home. Again. But let's not let that get us down. Despite all their turmoil and travel difficulties due to the Superbowl, the Magic gutted out the ugly win against the tired legs of the Pacers offense, undoing a lot of the good work they had been exhibiting on the road as of late. The Pacers did everything they could to lose that game, but the game was close and went down to the wire, though I'm not sure if that's a praise for the Pacers or an indictment of the messy Magic squad.
Anyway, let's forget about that horrible game and focus on the positives. It seems George Hill's chip-fractured ankle is not as bad as it first appeared, and although there is no specific timetable for his return, Hill claimed that he is targeting February 23rd as a potential date for court action. If that's the case then the Pacers will receive a much-needed boost.
In other news, the Pacers were ranked...wait for it...3rd (!) in ESPN's Power Rankings. That seemed a little high for me. I like the Pacers to remain underdogs under the radar. They perform better that way.