The Indiana Pacers put in one of their worst efforts of the season Wednesday night. On the second game of a back-to-back, the Pacers were dominated by the Charlotte Bobcats, 109-87.
It was clear this was going to be a long night after the first quarter when Indiana was outscored 28-8. It was the worst quarter in Pacers history and something you would never have expected from this team.
The Pacers record dropped to 46-15 and its the first time the team has lost back-to-back games since mid-December. Despite the loss, the Pacers did manage to clinch a playoff spot and are the first team to do so.
Everything about this game was ugly and inexcusable. They made dumb decisions on offense, didn’t play hard on defense, and spent more time begging for foul calls than playing basketball. Too often this season the team, and coach, have gotten derailed complaining about calls.
The bench made a nice run in the second quarter to cut a 20 point lead down to three, but the starters were never able to get over the hump.
The worst offender was easily Paul George who didn’t score a single point in the first half. He finished with just two off 0-for-9 shooting. He had seven rebounds and five turnovers. Coach Frank Vogel eventually just sat him down to think about his lackluster effort. George admitted that his back stiffened up (he hurt it two games ago) which would explain why all of his shots were short.
Lance Stephenson finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, and three assists. Two turnovers seems low after watching him last night. It also doesn’t include his quick jumper on a fast break when he should have held the ball. Overall, he just made a lot of bad decisions.
The current favorite for Defensive Player of the Year, Roy Hibbert, was absolutely dominated by Al Jefferson. Hibbert finished with four points and four rebounds. Jefferson, on the other hand, had 34 points off 64-percent shooting and eight boards. Hibbert couldn’t deny him position on the court and rarely forced Jefferson to alter his shot.
George Hill was about the only starter who came to play. He had 17 points off 60-percent shooting, but didn’t do much outside of that. He had a number of good looking passes to players who simply couldn’t hit the open jumper.
The lone bright point from this game was Evan Turner who led the team with 22 points. He was 9-for-12 and had five assists. Turner was able to drive to the basket regularly and took a lot of high percentage shots.
Chris Copeland got some early minutes and made the most of them, finishing with 11 points.
The loss is concerning, especially when you consider that the Bobcats sit near the bottom of the league in offense and are a sub-.500 team. There is a very real possibility that these two teams could meet in the postseason. The last two meetings favored the Pacers, but road back-to-backs have been death for this squad.
Generally the Pacers defense can keep them in any game, but last night was abysmal. There is growing concern that this team peaked too early and isn’t on the right track. West even said recently that the team needs to get its mojo back.
The Pacers are making mistakes and playing in a way that they didn’t earlier in the season. Errors on defense, a lack of ball movement on offense, and not boxing out on rebounds. Its simple, basic stuff that Indiana is failing on. This is the sort of loss that prompts president Larry Bird to call his team soft, or something along those lines.
It won’t get any easier for the Pacers this week as they head to Houston on Friday and will then be at Dallas on Sunday.