The Indiana Pacers still lead the Eastern conference and have finally broken their losing streak. But a 94-83 win over the Boston Celtics isn’t going to stop this bad feeling hovering around the team, which mostly has to do with their defense looking a bit too normal all of a sudden, something that won’t be enough for them come the playoffs.
The Pacers came away with the 11-point win over a bad Celtics team, but things were complicated early on in the fourth as the Celtics managed to narrow it down to only a one point lead (76-77). David West, the best player for the Pacers in this game, scoring 24 points, hit a huge jumper to put some distance between the teams and finally come away with a win after four consecutive losses.
The Pacers never look too good offensively, but their defensive problems have been the real reason for their slump. There isn’t too much height on their offensive potential ceiling, even with the additions of Andrew Bynum and Evan Turner. It’s going to be how they fix their defensive issues in the next few weeks that will determine how well they do in the playoffs. Looking back at last year’s postseason, the Pacers struggled in every series they had, including agianst the Hawks and the Knicks, because they find it difficult to finish games with their offense.
The Pacers did shoot 54.8% from the field against the Celtics, with David West hitting 11-of-13 from the field and the key players off the bench in Scola, Turner and Bynum barely missing. Bynum made his debut as a Pacer, finishing with 8 points and 10 rebounds. He gives this bench yet another piece that makes it look a lot more formidable than before, but it remains to be seen how well they help him blend in. The minutes without Roy Hibbert on the floor (playing 32 minutes) were very difficult for Indiana.
It’s interesting to see the Turner effect. His numbers are similar to those of Granger, but his effect on the rest of the team is almost negative: In 653 minutes with Granger on the floor this season, the Pacers outscored their opponents by 8.5 points per 48 minutes. Since Turner’s first game, Indiana has been outscored by 7.4 points per 48 minutes with him on the court. In 202 minutes with Turner off the floor during that span, the Pacers have a points differential of 0.
The Celtics? They had their moments, making the most of the Pacers’ 16 turnovers (5 for Paul George). Rajon Rondo had a rough night with 4-of-15 from the field, and Boston in general shot 35.2% from the field. The Pacers might not be at their defensive best at the moment, but Boston aren’t a good enough team to take advantage of that.
Frank Vogel couldn’t have asked for more when it comes to improving his team through the opportunities this season presented. It’s on him to make this work, while his players seem to once again be spacing out in the homestretch of the season. Last year they got back on the horse in time for an impressive playoff run that ended after 7 games in the conference finals. In the suddenly not so easy East, it’s going to take more than what we’ve been seeing from them since the All-Star break to match last year’s accomplishment.