The Indiana Pacers have no answers. Not a single one. Neither the coaches, the players, nor management can figure out what is ailing the former championship favorite.
The defense is there and its pretty strong, but the Pacers offense is dreadfully bad over the past month. They are 8-9 so far in March and host the San Antonio Spurs this evening.
Its been awhile since the Pacers had a losing record over the course of a month. The problems are not new, but 2014 has nearly been a disaster for this team.
The Pacers have cracked 100 points just three times this month and none of those wins are against a playoff team. Also interesting, none of those three games saw the Pacers win by double digits.
In that span, they average just 89.8 points per game. Defensively, they are giving up 93 points per game.
During their last three games, Pacers opponents are averaging under a point per possession (.958). That hasn’t been the case all month, but it still proves that the defense isn’t the issue. Offensively, they are in the bottom third of the league and are well below a point per game over the last three (.863).
Not long ago the issue was one of effort and ball movement. They are doing a much better job sharing the ball, but it isn’t finding the bottom of the net.
They haven’t shot over 40-percent in their past five games and are shooting just 42.8-percent in March. Combine the poor shooting with 14 turnover per game, and you start to understand why the offense is so pathetic.
We thought that the Pacers hit the bottom when they scored just 71 at Memphis (a fact that made LeBron James laugh), but that was fool’s gold. Losing at Cleveland (to a team that was 16-games under .500 and playing without All-Star Kyrie Irving) by 14 and failing to crack 80 points is the lowest of the low. The only thing worse would be losing to the Bucks.
Following that loss, the team had zero answers just like the rest of the month. A chorus of “I don’t knows” issued from the starters. Even coach Frank Vogel seemed at a loss.
“We had trouble catching passes and trouble knocking down open shots,” Vogel said. “Our guys are out of rhythm right now. We got to figure it out. That’s what we gotta do. I think we’re playing against ourselves right now. It’s a level of play that we’re trying to reach that we’re not close to where we need to be.”
Not much of an answer, but he is right. There is something off with the Pacers offense right now.
Roy Hibbert decided to call out his teammates by saying that there are “some selfish dudes in here.” That isn’t what you want to hear from an All-Star player. He hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire offensively but sharing the ball is key for any offense.
So what are the specific offensive problems?
For starters, too many mid-range jump shots. The Pacers are hoisting far too many shots between the arc and the paint to lead to an efficient offense. This team was constructed from the inside out, but even David West is guilty of chucking up shots from the elbows off pick and rolls.
Lately it seems as if the entire team is in the grips of a massive shooting slump and rather than fight for better looks, they continue to take contested, low percentage shots. Paul George might be the worst offender on the roster.
George is only shooting 37.2-percent this month. He has steadily gotten worse from the field every month this season and is way down from the 47-percent he was shooting in December. Most of this is due to George making the game more difficult than it is and taking jumpers as opposed to getting to the rim. He hasn’t dealt well with success, and his off-court problems seem to be getting worse.
Many people want to blame the additions of Evan Turner (or maybe the departure of Danny Granger) and Andrew Bynum for the recent problems but that really doesn’t explain the way the starters have been playing. Those five guys are still starting and playing a majority of the minutes and they’re the ones getting out to slow starts in the first quarter.
Injuries to the bench have been more of an issue lately. The loss of CJ Watson has been completely underrated as the second unit lacks a player who can stretch the court and hit three’s (which is why we’ve see more of Chris Copeland). Watson is infinitely better than Donald Sloan and will hopefully be healthy before the playoffs.
All Indiana has to do is get back to average on offense. They were 19th in the league in scoring before the All-Star break, that’s not even right in the middle of the league and they were still dominant. Start taking easier shots and hitting a few more per game, and were not talking about this anymore.
There’s time for the problems to be fixed, but we’ve been saying that all month now. The Pacers have a rough stretch to finish up the season and the No. 1 seed in the East is still up for grabs. Its time for Vogel to take this team to task and get them back to playing good basketball.