It’s hard to know for sure what Indiana Pacers players are feeling right now, as their season and hopes for a championship continue to slip away from them in what is no longer a surprise, but it’s possible to take a guess. From putting all the blame on Roy Hibbert, to thoughts on Frank Vogel and generally trying to comprehend what the f@#$ is happening pretty much covers everything.
There’s Paul George, who is individually doing a great job. He is putting up nice numbers, including a rare performance of 26 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 6 steals, which is something that doesn’t happen to losing teams. George got hounded by some fans during game 5 after a mistake he made, but it seems that George, the team’s best and highest paid player once his extension kicks in, isn’t the one to blame over this.
There’s George Hill who along with Roy Hibbert had a huge fall statistically in the second half of the season, and in some games looks like he is sleepwalking through them. His defense has fallen off the charts, although his offense seems to have picked up. Still, even though he isn’t your classic point guard that runs a team from top to bottom type, the Pacers should be expecting a bit more from a player who has the experience of playing behind Tony Parker, and has had big playoff moments in the past and not too long ago.
There’s Lance Stephenson, the big enigma in the bunch. There’s the suggestion that taming his wild side has actually hurt the Pacers, but Stephenson has always been that little bit of extra. Rarely the scoring leader or the best player in any situation, Stephenson often provides spark and energy. Even when it does happen this season, it never lasts for too long, and his problems of being consistently good simply won’t go away.
David West is the rock. He cried last year after getting benched in one of the playoff games, but if you’re looking for a player that doesn’t make mistakes, it’s West. A solid mid range shot, he does slow the game down a bit too much at times, but if the Pacers are thinking about simply not making mistakes, then West is someone who usually avoids them, at least when he is compared with a few other teammates.
And then there’s Roy Hibbert. A center who has been awfully busy these last couple of years when it comes to team and self promotion. He has never gotten this much attention, only it comes as everyone sees a 7’2 big man become irrelevant defensively and finish games with embarrassing 0 points, 0 rebounds numbers. The Pacers paid well two years ago to avoid losing him to restricted free agency, but in the most important games of the season Vogel doesn’t give him more than 12 minutes all of a sudden.
Frank Vogel got angry as the Pacers stood helpless against a three-point barrage from the Hawks in game 5. Maybe that helped kickstart some sort of comeback that felt way short of the goal. Maybe he saw Larry Bird making unpleasant faces in the crowd. Maybe he’s been reading into the rumors that getting knocked out in the first round will get him fired. It’s a combination of things that might be explained when this playoff is over, but right now even the weirdest speculations can’t begin to explain how the best team in the East for the first four months of the season has turned into a bunch that hates playing with each other and can’t muster more than a quarter or a bit more of good basketball in each game.