T.O.: I am going to stay out of the locker room on this question because I feel like it will be coming up in the future questions. One problem the Pacers have had, particularly since the All-Star break is a lack of ball movement. Rather than swinging the ball quickly around the defense trying to get a player a good look or driving opportunity against a rotating defense, the ball has had a tendency to get stuck on one side in one players hands for a good 5-10 seconds. Considering you only get 24, that is a big chunk of time. This is also a sign of selfish basketball. The way you get open looks is by screening (both on ball and away from it) and by making good cuts. The players aren't moving and when they are people aren't passing like they should. I know everyone wants to get their numbers so they can get paid, but this isn't the Indiana Pacers basketball we have become accustomed to see.
M.M.: It is difficult to pin point one thing that is at the heart of the Pacers second half struggles. I think it is several items that have all built up to what could end up being known as one of the most epic collapses of all time (if the Pacers can't advance out of the first round). I can't go into detail on every issue but I can give you a list of the issues.
1) It wasn't broke and you tried to fix it - The Pacers made a big trade to get Evan Turner and trade away the big contract of Danny Granger - ever since Turner arrived the Pacers have struggled after starting the season 33-7. This might have been the best long term move but it has hurt the Pacers this year.
2) Tired Legs - Frank Vogel loves his starting five the issue is that the big guys are tired because they have been playing almost every game - and long minutes.
3) Competition doesn't always bread better results - The personal competition between Turner and Stephenson to prove their worth to both the Pacers but also the league. Both players are looking for big contracts so they want big numbers - the championship is a distance second thought.
4) Teams have learned the basic Pacers offense - It is no secret, the Pacers run a fairly basic offensive scheme and teams have caught on to it which leads to a large amount of turnovers. Now the Pacers have become shy to pass the ball (in some cases that has to due to selfish play but in other cases guys don't want to turn the ball over). Dribbling forever is worst then not passing the ball and the record shows it.
5) Inflated Egos - There is a lot of young talent on the Pacers who are starting to let the spotlight take over the thought of a championship. Kobe Bryant knew how to be star and win championships - the Pacers better learn or stop being worried about being a star because you won't win a championship playing in that fashion. Team basketball has went to individual ballin and needs to become team basketball again.
B: My two cents is pretty similar to what you guys have already said. First, I think they're tired as made evident by the amount of time they've been given off these past few days. I secretly worried about this early in the season when the Pacers were slugging it out and the starters were getting a large majority of the playing time. The Pacers have built their season and reputation as the team with best defense in the league, however, that defensive style of play required a lot of hustle up and down the court and a lot of physicality. I really do think that some of them are just worn out which has probably led to some of the turnovers, mental mistakes, and frustration. Secondly, I think some of the Pacers have gotten selfish and forgotten that they won as a team. I agree with the two of you: the ball movement has stopped, inside-out play has gone down, and standing there dribbling has increased. It looks like we all agree that it is time to remember how INDIANA basketball is played (not to be confused with that steaming pile of a poor excuse of basketball they claim to play in Miami). You know while I'm at it, yes BabyBronBron you were fouled...you also fouled Paul George. Move on. OK I feel better.
T.O.: I am going to frustrate a lot of people and say both yes and no. I think the move one was a smart one. Danny had continued injury troubles and didn't look like the Danny of old leading up to this trade. Danny is also in a long line of Pacer sharp shooters who sit behind the Arc and hurt teams. While the Pacers are lacking in 3-point shooters, the second unit often has trouble creating their own shots, so adding a guy like Turner who is a real threat to create was a smart move. Also, we do not win the game against Miami if not for Turner. On the flip side of the coin, the locker room lost one of its leaders. With guys like Hibbert and West and PG in there, most, including myself, didn't think it would alter chemistry too greatly. PG apparently has taken it harder than most, and has been a little reckless in his personal life as of late, so having a mentor there may have helped him out. Who knows, but the move for Turner coincided with some locker room drama related to PG and the starting 5... connection? Well I'll leave that up to you.
M.M.: I think there is two ways to skin this cat. Long term this was a terrific move. Get a young, talented player with a small contract for an injury prone, older talented player with a large contract. Now the Pacers are set up to be able to sign either Lance Stephenson or Evan Turner depending on the market value and the Pacers cash position. On the other hand the competition between these two has hurt the team. This has created some selfish play among two young players. Contrast that to when Lance continued to try and prove himself and Granger was happy to help a team off the bench so they could win a championship. In the end this should turn out for the best but short term, this season, having Turner and Stephenson has hurt the Pacers chances of winning a championship.
B: Again, not much more to add here. I too think it's a great long term move. Short term not so much. I like the point you made Marris, about Lance and Turner competing and overall hurting the team. Again, I think everyone needs to remember that Indiana wins as a team. I think that that is something Turner needs to learn and something the veterans need to start enforcing more (they're going to have to put their egos aside too). Unfortunately, I don't get to watch every Pacers game so I can't see a lot of this competition, the body language etc. but from what I have seen is that Turner likes to dribble the ball a lot and pull up and shoot (credit he played great in the game against Miami). Turner needs to realize that he doesn't have to carry a team that is well out of playoff contention. The second unit isn't terrible and can score. Again, and I feel like we've said this a million times, start playing as a team again.
T.O.: Are the Pacers capable when they are at their best of beating Miami in Miami? Of course! They are as good if not better than Miami when they play as a unit and work as a team. The problem is that we haven't seen much of that lately. If a game 7 were to arise, well, I would much rather have it in our building as compared to theirs, BUT, if we get the job done in all of our home playoff games, I think we can close it out at Bankers Life in 6, if we can steal an early game in Miami.
M.M.: If the Pacers can find the team effort, defensively and offensively that we saw early in the season then Indiana can beat any team in a seven games series. If they continue to play the way they have over the past twenty games there is no way they will beat Miami on the road and we will be lucky to get a game or two at home.
B: We did it last year (should have one there twice...game 1 ugh) and we most certainly can do it again so long as we find our pre-all star break form. Bring back that Blue Collar, Gold Swagger and we could be playing against the best of the west.
T.O.: This is the real question to me. Even when the Pacers are struggling, they play up for Miami. They see Miami as their biggest rivals and they can figure things out a bit better and play more as a unit when they are facing the common enemy. The problem is the teams that are between us and Miami in the playoffs are kicking are but right now. The Pacers just got blown out at BLF by the Hawks who are trying to grab the 8 seed. We are trending in the wrong direction pre-playoffs which is not a good sign
M.M.: The Pacers will lose in the first round if they continue to play as I described in response to the first question. Coach Vogel announced on Tuesday that he intends to rest his starts the remainder of the regular season. Clearly he understands the starters are exhausted and need a rest before the playoffs but he also is "throwing in the towel" on the number one seed. Not a bad strategy considering the Pacers recent play probably wouldn't get them a number one seed anyways. Hopefully some rest can re-energize and re-focus this team so they can get a shot at the heat.
B: Not at this rate. If they continue to play like this I think they struggle in the first round and get schlacked in the second round and Miami waltzes into the NBA finals. I think the rest is a good idea. Sure it says they're giving up on Priority #1 (winning home court advantage throughout) but I think it also says that they still believe they can win it all and they want to be in top shape for a very deep run into the playoffs.
T.O.: Until they are eliminated they are contenders, but they look like the team we saw 3 years ago moreso than the team we saw 3 months ago as late. If they don't figure things out soon, We might be one series and done.
M.M.: Taylor is right...this team is a contender but they have to figure things out and in a hurry.
B: Agreed on all accounts. Right the ship, and right it now and we'll have the fair weather fans in south beach shaking so hard, Miami might just fall into the ocean (what a loss that would be). Until then though...well let's not think about that anymore.
T.O.: The players have started to show more positives despite the losses of late. West made a comment that the players were responding better to the losses (I'm not sure what that means, but I sure hope that they weren't blowing them off weeks ago). And the ball movement looked better up in Toronto. Vogel thinks a little R&R might be the trick for Big Roy who is putting up reserve like numbers. But all of that comes back to one thing. The players need to start playing and caring about each other. If they need to hug it out or slug it out on the practice court, then do it. Get rid of this selfish nature that we have seen lately and get their heads on straight. Talent wise they have what they need to have, but the attitude needs to change or they are going no where.
M.M.: I think the recipe is simple. Rest up and focus on winning a championship by playing team focused, defensive centered basketball. If the Pacers can do that the shots will start to fall, they will hold teams to a league best point total and they will be true contenders once again.
B: To state it one last time, remember how to play team basketball again. Finally, to borrow a quote from the Hunger Games: Catching Fire, "remember who the real enemy is." Don't get caught up with stats and everything else, focus on the common goal that they've had since losing Game 7: beating the smug out of Miami.