Maybe I'm being harsh here, but the Indiana Pacers have once again looked like a Jim O'Brien team the last couple of games, both home losses -- to the Utah Jazz and then the Phoenix Suns. Both teams have now swept the Pacers in the season series, and it brings back memories of when the spectacular collapse earlier in the season.
In both games, the Pacers didn't deserve to win. Against the Jazz they were down most of the game and then collapsed finally in the fourth to allow the Deron Williams-less team to run away with it. Against the Suns, more of the same, except they pushed it to overtime before Channing Frye hit a buzzer beater in Brandon Rush's face. Yes, he hit a tough shot, but the Pacers didn't deserve the W with the way they defended all night long. Not being able to hit shots didn't help either.
That said, you couldn't fault them for effort -- because they sure worked their tails off in both games, but the execution and defense weren't there. And both were winnable games and terrific opportunities to build some momentum heading into a brutal stretch of the season. But now, even with Charlotte basically giving away the season, the Pacers can't seem to build any ground. At the moment, 8th seed is not a problem, but the 7th seed, with Philly streaking ahead to be around 0.500, is almost an impossibility.
On the bright side, Vogel is a positive guy, and the chances of the Pacers losing their confidence and falling into a mental lull again are much lower.
Let's hope they can rebound against the Golden State Warriors, who have the exact same record of 26-32.
Two birds with one stone, or rather, two news items with one post.
First of all, the Pacers beat the Pistons in a grudge match, 102-101, thanks to a seemingly wayward Danny Granger desperation pass that found a streaking Brandon Rush, who threw it down two-fisted to give the Pacers a one point lead; then Darren Collison played surprisingly good defence on Rodney Stuckey, who threw the ball away with a second to go.
Oh, and Mike Dunleavy suffered a broken thumb in the game against Washington the day before, and is out indefinitely. Too bad, because Mike has been shooting the ball well and gives the Pacers another streaky presence -- though this now gives Rush an opportunity to work himself back into the rotation and may even give Lance Stephenson a chance to get his first minutes in the NBA. Defensively, you've gotta like Rush over Dunleavy.
But the biggest news of the day: the Pacers were ready to trade Josh McRoberts for OJ Mayo from the Memphis Grizzlies, but the deal fell apart at the last minute. Thank goodness!!!
Mayo, a 6'4", 23 year-old shooting guard, was once the best high school player in the nation, but this season has been sitting on the bench a lot. Right now he is averaging 12.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and shooting just 0.409 from the field. His career averages of 16.7, 3.5 and 2.8 are a lot prettier.
But my question is: WHY would the Pacers want yet another swingman? And WHY would it be at the expense of of their energetic power forwards, who has actually been playing quite well?
Don't they already have too many? Rush, Dunleavy (even though he's out), Granger, Paul, D. Jones, and Stephenson (though he hasn't played).
McRoberts is no franchise player, but he's been adequate and is still improving. He may only be averaging 7.4, 5.4 and 2.2 per game, but he's shooting over 54% from the field and is the team's most athletic big man -- one that regularly features on the highlight reels. His defense is still lacking and he still occasionally makes bad decisions, but the Pacers need him a lot more than they need Mayo.
McRoberts has a PER of 15.9 (league average is always 15), while Mayo's is only 12.4. 'Nuff said.
While I would have liked to have seen the Pacers make a move to be more competitive before heading into the offseason with lots of expiring contracts (and not much of a chance of landing a prized free agent), this was one trade that I'm glad didn't go through.
HOWEVER, the fact that the Pacers even contemplated this trade has got me thinking -- what are they looking for? Are they trying to tell Hansbrough that he's going to be the MAN at the power forward position? Are they saying that Brandon Rush is effectively gone after this season? Dahntay Jones? And what kind of effect will news of this kind have on the team and their performance?
Very interesting. I guess we'll see when they take on the Deron-Williams-less Utah Jazz. I still remember when they spanked the Pacers in Utah. It's time for payback.
No Pacers were invited to All-Star Weekend in LA, but that's a good thing for this team right now. Sure, Collison, George and/or Hansbrough probably could have gotten an invite for the Rookie Challenge, but this break gave the team a much needed rest, especially after it suffered its first two-game losing streak under Frank Vogel.
Well, they are back and they won their first game with ease against the struggling Washington Wizards, 113-96. After some sloppiness initially, the Pacers put their feet on the gas and streaked ahead with a bunch of fast break points.
Granger had 21 and 10, Hibbert had 16, 6 and 4 blocks, Hansbrough had 17 and 5, George had 11 and 9, and Collison had 11, 5 and 6 assists as every player on the roster scored.
With the entire NBA focused on the recent Carmelo to New York trade and now the Deron Williams to New Jersey trade, the Pacers are kind of sneaking under the radar a little bit (not that they were the focus of much attention before that). It's unlikely that the Pacers will made any significant moves before the trade deadline with monetary restrictions and Indiana being not exactly a popular destination for free agents, the team will just have to make do with that they have right now.
Tonight, they get a chance at redemption against the Detroit Pistons, the team they lost to just before the All-Star Break. I expect the Pacers to come out, play hard, and win easily. It'll be a test they'll need to pass if they want to seriously move up in the playoff ladder.
Looking ahead, the 25-30 Pacers have a great opportunity to step into the 7th spot (currently occupied by Philly) and potentially the 6th (New York) if Melo screws NY up (highly unlikely). Conversely, if they're not carefuly, they can also easily fall right out of the race again.
We'll just have to wait and see.
PS: Don't even get me started on Reggie not making the finalist list for the Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately, the Indiana Pacers will head to All-Star Weekend (even though none of them will be going, not even Collison/George/Hansbrough for the Rookie/Sophomore game) on a sour note after losing to the very beatable Detroit Pistons, 115-109 in OT.
The Pacers were lucky to have pushed it to OT, having trailed for much of the game, and some of it by double figures. But in the end, the Pistons just wanted it more. They got to the loose balls and made all the hustle plays, much like how the Pacers did against the Heat the night before -- except here, the less talented team managed to get the victory.
The silver lining is that Roy Hibbert continued his strong play, tying his career high again with 29 points and 9 rebounds. Danny Granger added 28, which Josh McRoberts added 15 and 12. Darren Collison has struggled lately and again played sub-par tonight -- 6 points (3-11 shooting), but he did have 9 assists. Hopefully he will get out this slump soon because I still love what I see from him on the offensive side, always pushing the ball the way the Pacers need to.
The loss pushes the Pacers down to 24-30, still in the 8th spot, but falling futher behind 7th spot Philadelphia (27-29). However, I am still confident that if the Pacers continue to play the way they have been playing, they should be able to secure that 7th position, even though at the end of the day it doesn't matter whether they play Boston or Miami -- because they've got no chance. But still, it's all part of the growing pains the Pacers will have to endure to become a better team.
Here's to hoping the team gets a fantastic break, some well earned rest, and come back after All-Star Weekend refreshed and engergized for the remainder of the season. They are currently on track to win 36 games, but I believe they can get close to cracking 40 if things continue to progress.
The Indiana Pacers lost to the Miami Heat again today, 110-103, pushing them down to 7-2 in the Frank Vogel era (both losses to Miami).
But still, I can't help but feel optimistic about the remainder of the season.
I'm just loving what I'm seeing from this team right now. All guts, all hustle. Even against a vastly superior, significantly more talented team, the Pacers never gave up. They closed the talent gap between the two teams by putting in a tremendous effort at both ends of the floor.
Get this: the Pacers were outscored 41-17 in the first quarter behind an insane D-Wade at his very best (41 points, 12 rebounds all up). And yet the Pacers came all the way back and even took the lead a couple of times in the second half, only to again falter down the stretch thanks to big plays from Miami's Big Three (who combined for 90 of the team's 110 points). There wasn't much the Pacers could do.
Great to see Paul George and Tyler Hansbrough playing like the future of this team. George had 14 points and 5 rebounds and Hansbrough had 16 and 5. George is a rookie, Hansbrough is practically a rookie. Collison and AJ Price are second year players. Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush are third year players. The future is very bright indeed.
Frank Vogel was proud of his guys after the game, and rightly so. "I'm proud of our guys," he said. "This is what I'm talking about when I talk about smashmouth basketball, blood and guts, never quitting. All heart, all hustle."
Darn right. And Hibbert's confidence has definitely not waned after another stellar effort (18 points, 7 rebounds): "The rest of the season, we're coming. We're not backing down. We're not having any lackadaisical games. We're on the prowl. We're hungry."
Go Pacers! It's time for another winning streak. Up next: @Detroit, @Washington, Detroit.