It’s only been one game, but the Indiana Pacers were embarrassed in the opening game of the playoffs. It doesn’t bode well for the future of the series against the Atlanta Hawks.
The Pacers completely fell apart in the third quarter on Saturday. That used to be the team’s strongest period and they used to be the best second half team in the NBA.
Indiana would routinely fall behind in the first half, only to blow out its opponent in the second. That hasn’t happened for a long time and we’ve seen the Pacers come unglued in the second half of games lately.
The Pacers were outscored 30-16 in the third. The Hawks were able to get to the free throw line with ease and the Pacers couldn’t buy a bucket.
We know that the Hawks are not a particularly good matchup for the Pacers, at least defensively. At the other end of the court, the Pacers should be able to foul at will. Roy Hibbert and David West should be able to dominate the smaller lineup of Pero Antic and Paul Millsap.
Hibbert and West had 16 points off 8-of-19 shooting. That’s pathetic. Hibbert is so bad on the court now that he isn’t even getting blocks and West seems to think he can flex the ball into the net.
Two starting big men facing a smaller and inferior lineup shouldn’t have that much trouble scoring. The Pacers have long talked about playing inside out, but if that inside presence can’t hit shots at the rim this team is in trouble.
George Hill was completely ineffective against Jeff Teague. He couldn’t stay in-front of him and was routinely beaten on pick-and-rolls. Hibbert’s help defense didn’t do anything to make the situation better, but if Hill isn’t going to create on offense, then he has to at least play his man tight.
Here’s what stands out from the first game:
- Sustainability. Can the Hawks continue to play this way and be successful for three more games? What Atlanta did in the third quarter, shooting 50-percent from everywhere, can’t continue. Granted, all this game took was one big quarter to determine the final outcome. But the Hawks shot 43-percent overall and jacked up 30 three-pointers. Minor adjustments in rebounding turn those long misses into fast break plays for the Pacers.
- Match-Ups. Put Paul George on Teague. There is no question that Hill can’t guard him, there is also no question that George is a great defender. George will make Teague work and in all likelihood, shut him down. George even want’s to guard him, saying “Yes, I would love to. Just change it up, give him a different look and really battle him out there.” He thoroughly enjoys a defensive challenge and locking Teague down is the best path to victory.
- Effort. The Pacers have to realise that this is the playoffs and lay it all on the line. How many 50-50 balls do you think Indiana hauled in? Did you ever see a player in gold hit the deck for a loose ball? Were the big’s fighting for every rebound? No to all three. If the Pacers want to use the phrase “Blue Collar, Gold Swagger” then they actually have to put in the blue collar style of work.
- Coaching. Frank Vogel seems completely lost at this point. He is a very good coach, but he’s clearly lost this team and isn’t even trying to make adjustments during the game. Vogel and his staff used to fix the problems from the first half and blow teams out in the second, did they forget how to coach? The Pacers offense out of halftime breaks has been non-existent lately. Vogel has to find a way to coach the team out of this series, or else his job might be on the line.
- Team? Have these players really been together for nearly two seasons now? There were so many plays where two STARTERS weren’t on the same page it looked like a pre-season game. The cohesiveness of the starting unit hasn’t changed, this is still the same core that decimated opponents in November.
Unless there are some drastic changes made before Tuesday’s game, I’m not sure the Pacers can win this series. Even if they do, does anyone have confidence in their ability to take down the Wizards or Bulls?
The writing has been on the wall for the past month, the Pacers are a bad team. They might even be one of the worst No. 1 seeds in history right now. At least when the offense was bad, the defense could carry them through games. Now that’s not even the case.
Team President Larry Bird can’t be happy, and I think it’s past time for management to visit the locker room.