Once again it’s March Madness, and once again the state is about to get swept up into Butler fever. Those of us who are Hoosier fans are feeling a little anxious to get this feeling back and have these stories fall around the cream and crimson. However, the best news about this affects the Pacers in particular, with instate squads Purdue and Notre Dame playing today, that it completely overshadows the egg the professional Pacers laid in Memphis, Tennessee. And man, what an egg it was.
The Pacers fell behind not only fell behind 17-2 to start, but shot a paltry 35.6%, one of the low points that has seen shooting nights of 29.6%, 31.5%, and 32.6%...numbers far more ideal for offensive rebounding percentage than field goal. But hey, you can take comfort in knowing last night wasn’t even one of the five worst shooting nights of the season; not even any worse than the last time Indiana faced Memphis! So why am I going on record to say "throw this one out, let’s not even consult it down the road?" Because it’s a growing trend that begins with Memphis and ends with Grizzlies.
I mentioned after the Chicago win that it may be a tall order expecting a follow-up in Memphis and it sure played out that way. I was hoping to be wrong, or at least wrong enough that the Pacers would be able to play within single digits of the Grizz, but some things in this life aren’t meant to be so rosy, like gas prices or your neighbors stealing your morning paper. Even still, there was no excuse for this game. It should be made clear that there’s no way Pacers fans can be okay with letting a loss like this slide, but I don’t feel I want to take too much from it.
Much like the fabled struggles against the Atlanta Hawks, Indiana hasn’t beaten the Grizzlies since 2008, and hasn’t played them within ten points in any of the last four games over the last couple of seasons, and I don't know if I see that changing anytime soon, Zach Randolph’s future pending. Much in the same way the Pacers are equipped well to play tough with the new "big three" squads in New York and Miami, they’re not equipped to even play competitively against Atlanta or Memphis.
It's an unfortunate tradeoff, but with so many styles, it's bound to happen. But it still doesn’t make it all right. Even still, what can you do as a fan but brace for the worse and hope for the best in games like these? After all, in the last 10 games combined between Memphis and Atlanta in the last two years (all of which are losses), they’ve shot worse in nine games, turned the ball over more in nine as well, but have been outrebounded in only six of those ten. It’s pretty fair to say the Pacers simply can’t play with these teams and lopsided defeats shouldn’t be surprising until we can see otherwise.
What’s far more pressing than wondering what the team can do in 5-6 automatic losses a year to see the guys bounce back this upcoming week and use their softer schedule against New Jersey, Charlotte, Sacramento, and Detroit. Not only does it paint a very solid picture to get a lot of wins, but also to build some distance at the eight seed, while sniping out a few potential party crashers along the way.
Even despite this loss, the Pacers still put forth one of those "was this seriously the best 3-2 week ever?" type weeks, so it's a net positive for now. Don’t let the loss to Memphis soak up too much distraught and disappointment. Treat it as an anomaly; at the very least hope it’s an anomaly until we can know for sure tomorrow night, and keep this problem on the backburners until Indiana takes the court against the Hawks themselves on April 8. Is it too late to back out of that game and reschedule another opponent? How set in stone is the NBA schedule anyway?