With games against Oklahoma City, Dallas and Houston in a four-day span, this trip figured to be difficult, but the Pacers made it a lot tougher on themselves by playing some of their worst basketball for long stretches during these games.
Tonight the only thing worth taking away from this game are a few catch phrases the team has been leaning on since interim coach Frank Vogel replaced Jim O'Brien. Until we see otherwise, and for more than a game or two at a time, it is officially time to retire any references to the Pacers that include the terms smashmouth, blood and guts or old-school basketball. While we're at it, the Goon Squad has officially returned to the more approrpriate description of the second unit.
Yes, the Rockets were rested and ready to go tonight while the Pacers were playing their fourth game in five days. But why must the Pacers ALWAYS succumb to these types of circumstances without bucking the trend. When will a player or two rise above expectations and do something special to lead the Pacers to a win?
There were signs of turmoil amongst the blue and gold tonight with Jeff Foster and Dahntay Jones appearing to reach their wits' end. Hopefully there will be some yelling and finger-pointing in the post-game locker room. Maybe even some hurt feelings. Better late than never.
Oh, the game? All you need to know is that the Pacers went down early as the starting unit failed to keep pace with the Rockets. The second unit didn't do much better as the Houston backcourt players (yes, all of them) made shots from all over the gym all night while the Pacers shot 29% in the first quarter.
The Rockets pushed the lead to 23 in the second quarter before the Pacers showed a little life and cut the lead down the 13. Of course, Houston had the last say before the end of the half and took a 16-point lead to the break.
30 seconds into the second half, the Houston lead was back up to 20 thanks to one of Darren Collison's four turnovers. Three minutes later the lead ballooned to 28 and it was officially garbage time. Seriously, don't look at the box score and attempt to find any positives from the numbers. Any good numbers were the result of the extended garbage time because while the final score "only" shows a 17-point deficit, the Rockets toyed around with the lead between 28-20 for most of the second half.
The Pacers young players saw plenty of minutes and played like young players flashing a combination of highlights and head-scratching, sometimes on the same play. This was surely casuing some of the frustration for the veteran voices in Foster and Jones. But this is the path the Pacers have chosen since making the coaching change. It has its benefits for player development and evaluation.
But for winning? Not so much.