That promising lead at the top of the Eastern conference has withered away, and the bad basketball the Indiana Pacers have been playing for almost two months now continues to get worse, resulting in a 90-76 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, with David West losing his cool and Paul George simply not carrying the team as he’s expected to.
The Pacers have lost five of their last seven games and are overall 8-9 through the month of March. The win over the Miami Heat last week was just a diversion from reality, and might not have come anyway if it wasn’t for some favorable referee calls. The fact of the matter is that they have no advantage over the Miami Heat (won two more games, played two more games) and still have to visit Miami before the end of this season.
The Cavs suddenly look like a team that might make the playoffs. They’re still 2.5 games behind the Hawks and also have the Knicks in the way, but they’re playing pretty good basketball since Kyrie Irving went down with an injury he’s still not coming back from. Dion Waiters scored 19 points to lead the team, Jarrett Jack plays like an actual point guard, finishing with nine assists and Tristan Thompson had a huge game with 12 points and 16 rebounds, as a combination of the Cavs’ improved defense and the awful offense from the Pacers resulted in a slightly embarrassing loss.
Paul George led the Pacers with 15 points, but aside from the first month of two in the season, George hasn’t really shown a great improvement this year. The Pacers keep on playing a slow, slightly dumb offense, which dribbles the ball for too long and leaves George with very few options and very little time to make a good decision before the shot clock runs out. Frank Vogel might have taught these guys some excellent defense, but something has been off offensively for a very long time.
Once again, the moment Roy Hibbert steps off the floor the wheels come off the bus. The Pacers weren’t exactly dominating in his 24 minutes, but they were awful with Ian Manhimi on the floor at center, and there comes a point when 37.2% from the field combined with 15 turnovers is a bit much for even an excellent defense to overcome, and the Pacers are having problems in that area when Hibbert isn’t playing.
The answer? Hard to say. The Pacers had a rough stretch at the end of last season as well before picking things up in the playoffs, although nothing went easily there either, including the first round against the Hawks. Unless the ball starts moving better and they actually start playing a bit more complicated offense which doesn’t involve taking a shot with time running out on the clock, their struggles are going to continue.
We’re losing games at an alarming rate to teams that are inferior to us. We can’t figure out a way to perform better. We’ve done what you do. We’ve had team meetings. We’ve had players-only meetings. We’ve had players and the coaches meetings. We’re kind of looking for answers right now, and things don’t get any easier.