Man, I had a great day today!
Watched some great basketball, including LeBron James and the Miami Heat coming up short against the Chicago Bulls, again. Indiana State hung on through a furious finish to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in ten years. I also shot some hoops with son #1 and bundled up with both of my boys to throw a little BP with baseball season in full swing.
While enjoying a fun Sunday, I hardly thought about that miserable effort the Indiana Pacers put forth last night in Houston. That was a nasty watch last night, but it didn't take long to get past it.
I'm sure that's how the players feel, as well. Reportedly there were plenty of upset Pacers after the game voicing their displeasure with the final flat tire on their road trip to nowhere. But as we sit here tonight, that's all past. Unlike us fans, the players should feel even better because they can actually go out and do something about the mess they find themselves in.
Some legitimate adversity hit home for the blue and gold in Houston. The players used to greet such problems united in blaming their coach, but Jim O'Brien is no longer around to absorb blame or the excuses. A stark realization for some players no doubt, which is why they probably took a look to the left, then the right to see where the problem may lie. Of course, the only move was for all of them to look in the mirror.
It will be interesting to see if Frank Vogel adjusts his lineup any after the recent slow starts. I'm not a big fan of making any drastic changes. The loss of Mike Dunleavy has had an obvious impact on the starting unit, that now relies on Danny Granger and/or Roy Hibbert to get off early or they're in trouble.
Dunleavy could get things going too, but more importantly his flow in the offense made things easier. Simply cutting through the lane doesn't show up on any stat sheet, but if it draws a defender's attention it can allow for Darren Collison to find Granger for a more open look or for Hibbert to be able to set up a step deeper in the post. Little things that put the offense in better position to succeed.
But for all of the offensive woes, defense has been to most glaring issue. It was incredible to watch the Bulls clamp down on the Heat on several possessions today. They played great defense without fouling. If the Heat scored that was fine, but it wasn't easy.
The young Pacers are not even playing the same game. Ball, man, and help-side awareness are rarely in sync. Paul George has great defensive instincts and does quite well guarding the ball against guards and forwards alike. But George is a long way from being a great NBA defender and having an idea of how to work with a defensive unit.
If I were up for one change heading into Tuesday night's big game with the Philadelphia 76ers, I'd put PG in the starting lineup for Rush. He may be a little worse defensively than Rush, but George is always looking to make plays which might just give the other starters a much-needed boost. If given a chance to make one change, what would you do?
Still, I don't expect many changes. The worst thing Vogel could do is panic after that mess on Saturday, make drastic changes and possibly create a whole new set of problems. The best thing to do would be to get a full-length mirror set up in the locker room and make sure each player stops and takes a good look before going out to face the Sixers.