While this won't be the final Devil's Take of the year, it is unfortunately the last one for the Pacers season. Tonight's game wasn't much better than game 5 was. I saw a team that fell apart early in the 3rd quarter and a Heat team that simply played like it was their game to lose. To be honest, the Pacers blew this series, and the only people they should be mad at is themselves.
Once again, after a tough, hard fought series, the Pacers go home wondering what if. Last year they faced arguably the best team in the East, and lost a series in which they could have easily won 4-1. This season, they play again the same scenario. This was a series that the Pacers SHOULD have won. I don't care what the outcome was, because I'm still PISSED about what this team threw away. On to the article...
- The Pacers played with an energy early on in this game, only to fall apart the minute the second unit came out onto the court in the 2nd quarter. While they would rebound and take a lead at half time, it was too little too late at that point. The Miami Heat would go on to control the game from that point, and everything the Pacers did was meaningless.
- One of the biggest flaws in the coaching of this series was the lack of pressure being put on James/Wade. Sure, the Miami role players can beat you, but I don't give a damn. I'd rather lose to a bunch of nobodies than watch 2 players drop 70 on me. It's atrocious. You could hear the commentators on the TV saying trap early, trap high, etc... Nothing was done. The defensive pressure in the lane was better, but it wasn't as good as it should have been.
- When is the NBA going to stop coddling James? I counted 4 traveling calls missed on him in the game. He got away with a no call for a tech in the 2nd half. He had 3 fouls called on him in 6 games. He's that good? More like he's that protected. You can say otherwise, but the tape doesn't lie. He gets the calls, every single game.
- I don't care what your opinion of this game is, but the Pacers blew this one big time. The stat sheet says the Pacers had 20+ turnovers. What it doesn't tell you is all the bad shots that were taken 3-7 seconds into the shot clock that were essentially turnovers. This team in the 2nd quarter and early 3rd quarter was so very guilty of going away from their strength (inside to outside) and relying EXCLUSIVELY on badly shot perimeter shots. Sure, some of them were open looks, but when you have the lead you have to play smart. If you target just those plays, I'd wager the Pacers had something close to 40 turnovers in that game. You can own the boards, you can own the shooting percentage, but you cannot, cannot, have that kind of disadvantage.
It's hard to praise this team right now because of the way the season ended, but I still have to take my hat off to this team. Best winning percentage in 8 years, best season finish in 7 years, and most importantly, the team took dramatic steps forward in terms of defining who they are. Acquisitions of West, Barbosa, Hill, and a few others made an impact on the year.
However, that only tells part of the story. This team made the city actually believe in it again, something that really hasn't happened since Reggie Miller's final year. You have players who actually care about being on the floor, being in the blue and gold. It's a good feeling, and I am very proud to be a Pacers fan.
Future of the team:
In reality, this team is actually pretty well set for next season in terms of personnel. Hibbert will get a new deal, because the team brass are not going to let him walk. The team will also probably look at re-doing West's deal, as his knee has proven it will hold up. That may sound a little silly, but he's gonna count for 10 million next year and the Pacers could easily get him a more cap friendly deal with a few more years on it.
There are two issues this team needs to address, and they need to do it outside of the draft.
- 1.) They need to get a true PG. Many have suggested Deron Williams, but honestly, he's going to go after the money. Steve Nash will be a free agent, but he's older than dirt. Still, on a team like ours that's one step away, he could be the deciding factor ala Jason Kidd. While we have two good PG's on the team, they are more shooting guards than point guards.
- 2.) The Pacers HAVE to pick up someone who can drive the ball. This team has flirted with OJ Mayo now for 2 years. The one player on the roster who is even remotely an attacking type player is George, and he's unreliable at the moment. Being able to put someone who can drive the ball, such as Wade can do, Kobe can do, Westbrook can do, is something this team simply does not have.
If the Pacers can address these issues, without giving up a lot in return, they are easily an early favorite coming into next year. The Bulls will be without D-Rose for part of the year, so that's going to help the early start for the Pacers. The team could look at packaging their draft picks for a key player, with perhaps a man to man trade involved. Their also good with cap room, so the Pacers can afford to look at spending a little this offseason.
It was a good year, the Pacers had a good run. It's really bad that it ended like this, but all things have to come to an end at some point. I'd have been happier with a game 7 loss than a loss like this. So, here's a toast to the Pacers, and to whomever plays the Heat, you now have my support.