Bold statement forthcoming: The Indiana Pacers will be knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
Bolder statement: It won’t even reach a Game 7.
Come to think of it, maybe neither of those statements are that bold, after the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference was humiliated on their home court in Game 1.
Adequate words to describe this Pacers squad are becoming few and far between. Baffling? Disappointing? Horrendous? Soft?
Many, myself included, thought Indiana would show up in vintage Pacers form Saturday night, proving doubters wrong and handling the mediocre Hawks with ease. Instead, the Hawks looked like the team with a point to prove.
The first half saw both teams play at a similar level. The only noticeable difference was rebounding. The Hawks outrebounded the Pacers 26-18.
Paul George had 14 for Indiana while Lance Stephenson chipped in 11.
For the most part, the Pacers looked like they had for the past two months—out of sync, going through the motions, and lackluster in every facet of the game.
Frank Vogel needs to work on his halftime speeches. Whatever he said didn’t work.
Before the Pacers could blink, they faced a 58-50 deficit soon after the third period began. That deficit grew to 14 as the period came to a close.
Fans appeared conflicted.
Who is this team?
As the deficit grew and the team trailed by as many as 20 in the fourth quarter, Vogel and company were left to scratch their heads. They can continue doing so until Game 2 on Tuesday, three days which will likely seem like an eternity for a team that, at times, looks like it doesn’t even want to be on the court.
The Pacers scored below their season average and allowed 10 more points than usual, neither of which are a good recipe for playoff success.
Despite scoring a team-high 24 points, Paul George shot 6-18 from the floor.
The team committed 15 turnovers.
They were 16-23 from the free throw line.
What do all of these things have in common? Selfish, lazy, mistake-prone basketball. Ironically enough, exactly what has been the team’s MO for months.
Beyond the X’s and O’s on the basketball court, this team needs to figure out what they want. Clearly, any illusions of coasting through the first round on autopilot are gone.
Gone are worries about focusing on home-court advantage for the supposedly inevitable series versus the Heat.
Gone is a potential “statement series” that a sweep of the Hawks would have provided.
Gone soon, if the team does not turn things around, will be the season entirely.