The Denver Nuggets are a really good NBA team.
In fact, the Nuggets didn't play particularly well and were held to just 43% shooting but had plenty of firepower left to cruise to a 111-93 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers margin of error against teams like the Nuggets is razor thin, so opening the first quarter shooting in the low 20's from the floor and scoring just 13 points is too much to overcome. For the third straight game, the Pacers ran into a playoff-caliber team and didn't play at a high enough level to compete for a win.
No time to panic, right? The Pacers aren't playing great, but they've played good teams, so these losses are simply a case of teams that are ready to win now taking advantage of a Pacers team that is still trying to figure out how to play together and find their offensive stride.
You buyin' that?
There is a genuine problem with the way the Pacers are currently playing that goes beyond new faces in new places taking on new roles. Passion and pride are merely words on a Fieldhouse banner, instead of evident in the team that plays there.
You can pull out positive numbers like Roy Hibbert's double-double with four blocks or Dahntay Jones' 20 points off the bench.
You can point to more bad luck, with Troy Murphy going down in the first half and not returning to the game because of a bruised back. Or the poor shooting night of Danny Granger. Just one of those nights...again.
But something else is missing. There's not enough fight on the court. No one is taking charge of the situation or even trying to right the ship when they drift off course. The body language exudes defeated instead of determined.
The leaders seem frustrated (join the club!) but showing frustration isn't leading. We all know things aren't going well. You're not intending to miss shots or turn the ball over or foul repeatedly. Instead of trying to show that you care, how about doing something about it. Change the tone in the locker room, in the huddle and on the floor.
T.J. Ford in particular has disappointed in this role. I'm sure he wasn't happy with his playing time in the first two games, but giving a half smile and a shake of the head doesn't make things better. Against the Nuggets, foul trouble kept Ford on the bench, but when he returned for winning time in the fourth quarter frustration quickly led to two more fouls and game over for Ford. The starting point guard.
Some teams look at the starting point guard as the team's quarterback, the floor general, the straw that stirs the drink. The Pacers are getting none of that out of T.J. on the floor. We've seen this type of situation sour before, so watching how Ford reacts over the next couple of weeks should be interesting.
Danny Granger struggled big time against the Nuggs and it has become clear that Granger's production is directly tied to how well the Pacers run their offense. Needless to say it didn't run well tonight. Simply not enough ball and player movement to even classify what the Pacers did in the halfcourt as an offense. Granger in particular doesn't do well starting with the ball and trying to make a play. He's much better catching and shooting off the move. When the offense bogs down and the dribbling increases no one is in rhythm and the clanks come out at night.
As a team, the Pacers had 13 measly assists. No ball movement, no assists, no easy buckets.
So how bad will it get before we see some signs of life?
Check back tomorrow. The Pacers visit the New York Knicks who won't be mistaken for the Hawks, Heat or Nuggets anytime this year. But forget the opponent for a moment. The Pacers desperately need to unveil some of that passion and pride and look for a solution to their losing ways.