Even though I’ve watched much more of them, I’m also not so sure I can speak all that strongly to what’s gone wrong wrong on the hardwood, either.
Here’s the short version of what I saw Saturday night from the balcony.* The first quarter was a bit sluggish, but there was some good signs from Roy Hibbert scoring early and George Hill looking for his own offense. Sure, the team lost that quarter, but there was nothing to be too concerned about at that time. The second quarter went well until the end. The bench especially looked pretty good in getting the lead back for the Pacers. The third quarter went dismally. Uneven whistles and shoddy rebounding didn’t help the cause, but the defense looked disorganized, and the Hawks hit just about every open look they got.** The fourth quarter was marginally better, but the Pacers just couldn’t seem to make up any ground. The seats were starting to empty in our section pretty much from the start of the fourth quarter. I held on for about half of that quarter before my frustration was just too much. Apparently things did go better for the Pacers after that, as they did actually win that quarter and make a fourth quarter twenty point deficit into only an eight point loss. Not a huge victory, but we’re to the point where we have to appreciate the little things.
*The Fieldhouse really is a great arena, I don’t feel like there really is a bad seat in the house. Here’s a cool picture my wife took from our seats.
**Not too dissimilar from what the Hawks did the last time they were in Indy. On the bright side, it only lasted a quarter and not the whole game.
Am I in panic mode just yet? Not, not really. Concerned? Oh, definitely. That was exactly what I didn’t want to see out of this team to open the playoffs. For all the noise the Pacers made about wanting home court because they knew they could defend it suddenly looks pretty thin. It doesn’t leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy about the upcoming rounds, either, assuming the Pacers do survive this series. That said, there were some things to take heart in. For one, clearly something positive happened in the fourth quarter to cut the lead. In previous games that got away, big leads stayed big. As somewhat mentioned before, George Hill did score twelve points, and on 5-for-8 shooting. Hill has hardly even gotten up shot attempts in the past several games. Yeah, he had a pretty horrendous looking three ball, but if he’s looking to shoot again, he’ll get that feel back quickly. As also mentioned earlier, the whistles felt awfully lopsided on Saturday, which especially caught up to David West. That ought to average out as well. This is also a team that typically hits its free throws. Of the 23 that were shot on Saturday, they missed seven. Not only does that happen to be nearly as much as they lost by, but also something else that surely will even out.
Of course things do have to get better. Hibbert’s legs still don’t look right to me, which probably explains getting blocked by Kyle Korver. Lance Stephenson let a nice second quarter run go to his head, which lead to a pretty inefficient stretch. 19 points, sure, but doing it on 8-for-18 shooting isn’t great. The same could be said of Paul George, shooting 6-for-18. And poor Luis Scola. He’s getting open looks, but he failed to hit any of them. None of them even looked particularly good from where we were sitting, either.
Of course there were dark spots. Losing an opening home game as a one seed is clearly not good. But it’s not the end of the world yet. I’m not the first to say it, but this team will be judged solely on how they do against Miami. If they don’t reach Miami or lose in that series, this season is nothing but an abject failure, and some big moves will probably be made. I don’t know if that’s the right thing to do, but that’s how things work in the NBA these days. If the team struggles every round but still manages to squeak into the finals, though, there will be nothing but pride in this group. Those early round woes will be completely forgotten, and this will only be known as a Finals team, if not World Champions.
If you want to get to that level, though, you can’t be dropping many more games to lowly Atlanta Hawks.