When things have gone haywire for the Pacers lately, the body language has soon followed. In fact, sometimes the body language started out bad and then the play went haywire.
Regardless, there's nothing more disheartening than watching a team with poor body language play poorly. This pretty much sums up March for the Pacers.
Whether it was complaining to the refs, stat hunting or other forms of exasperation with teammates, the unseemly public displays ranged from immature to unprofessional. All of those varieties of frustration show a lack of focus on the bottom line of winning since they shift the focus to the individual instead of the team.
So it was nice to see the Pacers change their behavior against Detroit and focus on playing together while leaving the referees alone for much of the night. As Conrad Brunner reported, Paul George made a concerted effort to change his ways which has seen him focus more on begging for calls than trying to finish scoring opportunities through contact.
The players also decided to try something revolutionary: leaving the officials alone.There were no fowl foul faces from West, no upraised arms of complaint from George.
"At some point, we've got to be able to move on," George said. "I've been the worst probably on this team of doing it. It's something I've kind of learned, just to move on. There's nothing I can ever do to persuade a call. It's never happened in the league, I don't think, so it's just moving on and continuing to just play basketball."
Now I'm not sure we need to get rid of the DWest scowls, but getting rid of PG's raised arms, Big Roy's slumped shoulders and Lance Stephenson's head roll after missed assist opportunities would be fantastic.
Not only does Hibbert's body language display where his game is at on a particular night, but when he's amped up with his shoulders thrown back, his team usually follows. When he's not, they look in another direction.
As for PG and Lance, this should be a lesson in maturity. Both have had instances where they complain to the refs and openly complain about failed plays.
For Lance it started innocently enough, as he was hunting a couple of triple-doubles early in the season in games that were otherwise decided. Everyone in the gym knew he was filling out the stat sheet and when an assist went wasted by a missed shot, Lance made it known. Although in those circumstances it was all part of the show.
But then the head rolls and barking started becoming routine in the regular flow of tight games. I'm convinced Lance means no harm and remains more interested in winning, but the act can wear on teammates and certainly doesn't help when everyone needs to be on the same page.
A snapshot example of this came in the Pacers loss to Golden State at home. Lance led the Pacers up the court in transition with the Warriors getting back to stop the break. Lance left a nifty pass for a George Hill trailing the play a the three-point line. When Hill didn't immediately fire it up, Stephenson flailed his arms and threw his head back in the corner of the court. Hill then took a pick and drove through the lane for a layup as Lance exclaimed, "There you go my (friend)!"
Lance was genuinely pumped about the bucket but the extra theatrics after Hill swallowed Lances assist just screamed selfish.
Paul George had a similar play during the team's loss to San Antonio. After cutting through the lane, Ian Mahinmi missed PG for the split second he was open, which prompted George to throw his head back as he kept running. PG went around another screen and was then open for a three-pointer which he now had to rush and clanked of the backboard and back iron. Who knows if he would've made it by sticking with the play and being ready to shoot the second option, but taking a second to flash his exasperation, certainly kept him out of rhythm to make the three.
For me, complaining to the refs is highly annoying but the complaining between players (and it is not just Lance and PG, they just happen to have a couple of good examples) in the midst of live play is not how a championship caliber team plays like the champions they strive to be.
Let's hope they build on their behavior against the Pistons even if they run into more adversity up in Toronto.