The Indiana Pacers suffered another tough road loss, complete with defensive breakdowns, a lack of crunch time scoring, and no help off the bench. Once Michael Redd caught fire down the stretch, the Milwaukee Bucks cruised to the win, 104-92.
I had to laugh toward the end of the broadcast tonight when Chris Denari and Clark Kellogg were trying to grasp for a positive spin to put on things, and Denari referred to the Pacers as "Slump Busters" based on the huge games they brought out of the struggling Bulls and Bucks. He was trying to make it sound like the Pacers were simply unlucky to run into these struggling teams on a night when they put it all together. I'd say luck was less a factor than friendly defensive pressure by the Pacers.
The game was pretty tight throughout. Both teams made small runs at times, but it was tied after 1, Bucks up 2 at the half, and Bucks up 1 at the end of the third quarter. The Pacers had a much better effort from Mike Dunleavy who finished with 22 points. Danny Granger came on strong late to finish with 20 points and 9 rebounds. Travis Diener started his first NBA game and finished with 15 points, 9 assists and only one turnover in 40 minutes.
So what went wrong? Well, Diener had to play 40 minutes because Jamaal Tinsley sat out with the illness that had him so lethargic on Wednesday night. The bench contributed only 8 points and didn't offer much else. Shawne Williams was 0-6 and seems to have lost his shooting touch. I mean, he has a great stroke but he's missing badly right now. Marquis Daniels continued his puzzling stretch of play that is mucking up the rotation.
Then there's the defense. The effort appeared to be there, which is scary because the results were brutal. The scouting report on the Pacers is pretty simple. Disregard who is guarding you and take the ball to the hole. If another defender rotates over to help, kick it out to his man for an open jumper, preferebly a 3-ball. Repeat for 48 minutes.
Not much else to say about this loss, but I must continue my campaign to plead for some playing time for Stephen Graham. Are we supposed to pretend Graham's energetic performance against the Kings didn't happen? Give the man some burn and see what happens. And no, the too little, too late minutes he received at the end of the game tonight is not what I'm talking about. Give him some real minutes!
The Pacers 'slump busting' abilities will be put to the test on Saturday as the play the reeling Miami Heat.