As I write this post now, the Pacers are down 25 to the New Orleans Hornets. But even with another brutal loss, the Pacers have just about locked up a trip to the postseason where they can be swept by either the Bulls, Celtics or Heat.
That's because a couple of days ago they overcame the Milwaukee Bucks, 89-88, when Drew Gooden missed a three pointer at the buzzer. With that win, the Bucks were just about eliminated from contention and, coupled with a Bobcats loss to the Magic, the Pacers moved to 2 games ahead of their only rival for the 8th spot in the East.
Oh, and the Bobcats seem to have run out of steam -- they just lost to the Wizards today (in Charlotte, no less), so even if the Pacers lose (which they probably will) they remain 2 games ahead.
What is frightening is that their last win against the Bucks might be the last victory for the Pacers this season. I think they'll beat Washington, but if they don't, they could very well lose to the Hawks, New York and Orlando in their last 3 games -- AND still make the playoffs and get swept. Even if they beat the Wizards (and provided they make the playoffs), that's still a potential 7-game losing streak coming our way. With the likely lockout approaching, it might be a very long time before the Pacers get another win.
The weird thing is, the Pacers have talent. No one will argue that a core of Granger, Hibbert, Collison, George and Hansbrough (and if you want, Rush) is a bad young nucleus to have. Well, maybe some, but that's a pretty talented young team that has plenty of room to grow. It just seems to me that something is desperately missing from this squad. These days they seem to always get into a hole in the first quarter, without fail. Every bloody time. They can't defend anybody and rely on their erratic offensive game to win games, which is a gamble night in night out. They turn the ball over far too often and don't get to the 50-50 rebounds and loose balls. They miss far too many foul shots. Make a list of things a team shouldn't do and chances are the Pacers will tick all the boxes.
Granger is the team's best player but he doesn't have the leadership, heart or passion a franchise player needs. Every game there are moments where I see him not playing with effort, getting blown by on D, getting outmuscled and outrebounded by smaller players and throwing up bad shots. I'm sure he cares, but his facial expression and body language suggests he doesn't care enough.
Hibbert plays with passion but he doesn't know how to channel it. And no matter how much he improves I don't think he'll ever be an elite center in the league unless he knows how to control his mind and his emotions in a positive way. And he's still too slow and falls all the time.
I love the speed and tenacity Collison brings to the team but he can't guard anyone. He is flat out hopeless against the pick and roll and every team I watch exploits that weakness against him. I wonder if he'll ever be able to improve.
Paul George and Tyler Hansbrough -- now those I like. But they are still both unknown and risky prospects with weaknesses. But at least they give Pacers fans some hope going forward.