"We feel like we can make the playoffs, but we don't know how to win," Pacers forward Danny Granger said. "Some nights we play good, other games, we have nights like this and (Friday against Sacramento). It's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You don't know what you're going to get."
Other players and coaches have made similar comments before and the general idea that the Pacers don't know how to win, nor have any idea how they're going to play from night-to-night is as soft an excuse as you can give.
You don't know how to win? Then figure it out. Start with trying to repeat what you did in the bulk of the 32 wins so far this season. Take care of the ball when you have it and get after it when you don't...all game long.
I know I've given up trying to figure out when and where the Pacers will show up in winning form, but have the actual players inside the actual locker room given up trying to figure this thing out, as well?
One night Granger is making big shots and bringing his team along with him for a win. The next night, his game isn't on point and he gets discouraged that his teammates can't carry the load, then everything falls apart. This isn't only on Granger, though. The same could be said for Darren Collison, Tyler Hansbrough, Roy Hibbert and right on down the playing rotation.
The effort and execution is rarely consistent from player to player and when a few parts are out of sync, we have a mess on our hands. When they're all out of sync, we have losses at Minnesota and a sound thumping at home by Sacramento.
On the flip side, when things are in sync, there are wins over the Heat, Lakers and Bulls. Same guys, same game, yet no one seems to know what triggers the good or brings on the blahs. It's hard not to question the players' desire to figure it out beyond admitting they have a problem.
This isn't rocket science, after all. The Pacers offense can work pretty well when they continue to move the ball and stay on the attack. But when one player holds the ball while the other players stand around, the inevitable forced jump shot results in a poor possession. A losing possession. This isn't hard to understand.
Oh, and how about guarding someone? Not a handful of possessions but throughout a game. Coach Frank Vogel is spreading the minutes enough that no player should be saving themselves for the other end of the court.
Just how much extra preparation are these guys doing beyond reviewing the detailed scouting reports and game videos prepared by the coaching staff? Is anyone putting in extra time looking for an advantage? It would be nice to see the Pacers flow into a counter when the defense adjusts to shut down something that's working. Everyone standing around while someone goes one-on-one is not a counter.
The Pacers are trying to develop a winning culture but saying it doesn't make it happen. It happens as a result of the effort put into preparing to win both physically and mentally. What they really need is a culture of overachieving where no amount of extra shots or extra film study is considered, well, extra work. Right now it seems like everyone is comfortable with the sporadic results without having to do anything above the norm to shake things up. From afar if appears the players are looking at one another thinking, well, if he's not putting in any extra time than neither am I.
Stepping outside of that comfort zone to give an extraordinary effort to the process of winning is the way to sustain the type of changes that the Pacers are only able to talk about now. Otherwise they'll be sitting comfortably in their spot on the couch watching the first round of the playoffs from home.