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IC Cold Links: Dunleavy Struggling To Regain Shooting Stroke, Leg Strength

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Mike Dunleavy's stats are hurting, and so is he.

After missing the first 13 games of the season while still recovering from offseason knee surgery, Dunleavy surprised and excelled in his limited minutes during his first 11 games back in action. Highlighted by games when he scored more than 20 points three times during that span, Dunleavy averaged 14.7 points per game and shot better than 43 percent from the field in eight of the 11 contests. However, weary legs have caught up with the forward, and in his past four games, including his two-point performance in Saturday's loss to the Hawks, Dunleavy has hit the figurative brick wall.

His point production has dropped 5.8 per game in the last four contests, his shooting percentage has dropped to 25 percent and he's uncharacteristically turning the ball over on offense (five times against the Hawks). Dunleavy told the Indianapolis Star the following after Saturday's loss:

"It's not so much missing the practice time now as it's missing training camp. The last two years, you really get an appreciation for training camp, because you can build up your legs and get in shape. The first 10-12 games of the season are usually a piece of cake because you have adrenaline, but once you settle into the routine of the season, you realize it's a long haul and you don't have that base."

After Danny Granger went down with injury several weeks ago, the Pacers were counting on Dunleavy's increased minutes to help him make up for Granger's offense and playmaking. But, Dunleavy's minutes haven't increased as much as planned. He's played more than 30 minutes only twice this season, and he's limited even more in back-to-back situations.

Coach Jim O'Brien said Dunleavy's legs are too weak right now: "Clearly his legs are not in the type of game shape that they need to be. That's a dilemma because it's hard playing basketball without strong legs, and it doesn't look like his legs are carrying him very well right now. I'll have to talk to our medical staff and see what their impressions were because I don't know if his legs are ready to carry much of a load right now. That would be my best guess."

For more on O'Brien's "guesses" into what is going on with his team, visit the jumps for more links, including Mike Wells' game story on the Pacers not receiving the messages that O'Brien's staff is giving.

  • Recap/Box Score
  • Photo Gallery
  • AP Story
  • The Pacers Inside the Game link checks out what went wrong, and what little went right, during Saturday's loss to the Hawks. Interesting stat of the night notes that the Pacers' starting unit was outscored 49-17 in the first half, and eventually lost the scoring battle 84-35. It's apparent that Indiana continues to start JV players against varsity opponents. Unfortunately, the team's only varsity starter is on the bench with an injury. Get well soon, Danny.
  • Loved Mike Wells' lead today in his game recap and story. Read it for yourself here at the IndyStar. Players are not listening to their coaches. It is so blatantly obvious that it's now the leading go-to excuse after each game. Here's coach Jim O'Brien after the game explaining his players' inability to understand the complexity of the Hawks "switching" on defense: "We prepared for that for two days and it never registered with our players. We spent Christmas Eve and (Saturday) morning talking about switching. We went over it in pregame, we talked about it in timeouts and then we go out and act like they weren't switching; so I don't have an answer for that." How many more times does JoB need to say that he doesn't understand this team before something happens to shake things up?
  • Wells' notebook looks into Luther Head's big game last night (19 points on 7-of-10 shooting).
  • In his blog post from last night, Wells shows us that the playoffs are actually within reach and wonders if that's a good thing or not. Also, Wells checks out Tyler Hansbrough and his 19-point effort last night.
  • John Oehser recaps the game for his Indiana Pacers Examiner page.
  • Peachtree Hoops offers some analysis from the Atlanta Hawks' perspective. 
  • The Pacers are back on the court tonight. And if you feel like you can stomach a game on TV, then tune in at 6 p.m. (EST) for the Pacers visiting the Heat. Here's a preview, courtesy of the Sporting News.