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Philadelphia 76ers 110, Indiana Pacers 100: Slow First Quarter Keeps Indiana Behind All Night

Fans of the Pacers really hoped the team had gotten the air cleared following their players’ only meeting, but whatever was cleared, it didn’t exactly amount to much except another disappointing, effortless, and uninspiring loss. Sure, coming into the game, the Philadelphia 76ers had been on a roll. Andre Iguodala was sporting a couple of spiffy triple doubles, the team (once at 3-13), had erased their deficit and gotten above .500 and are serious challengers to New York for the sixth playoff spot.

In fact, since their loss to the Pacers in January, they came into the game 17-7 since. For the Pacers, it’s been quite the opposite as of late, coming into the game 3-7. With Jeff Foster out, it would be an uphill climb for the team anyway. But it didn’t even get to the second unit before the wheels fell off again. The Sixers never trailed, and sparked a 13-5 start and essentially put the game away at that point. The Pacers made efforts, but Philly lurked with a few baskets to make sure it wasn’t too close.

They cut it to four in the first, 76ers respond with an 8-0 run. They claw back to five towards the end of the first, Philly scores on their final four possessions of the quarter. The Pacers tried to push, push, push all night, but the Sixers were always there. Part of that would be misfortune if it seemed like the Pacers were putting forth an effort. But did Tyler Hansbrough try. The Pacers trailed by sixteen, Hansbrough score 12 of the team’s next 14 points to draw them within…14?!

The Pacers have fallen by the wayside early in games and have resulted in having to play catch up all game long. In the team’s last eight losses, dating back to the loss at home to Miami, the team has found themselves down double digits (or nine) six of those games. In the team’s three wins, it’s been nearly the opposite, only one game have they trailed after the first.

There was no movement offensively. That the Pacers shot 48% is pretty impressive considering they only assisted on 13 field goals. They committed 19 turnovers gifting the 76ers 17 points. Despite outscoring Philly at the line by 17 points themselves, there was no ebb or flow to the offense, nor was there any legitimate desire to crack down defensively. The Sixers scored over half of their points in the paint.

The answer seems so simple, and they’re things that haven’t been executed since Frank Vogel took over. Jim O’Brien preached field goal defense, the Pacers were one of the top five teams in the league and were in position to beat a lot of good teams because of it, now they have completely fallen off defensively and team’s are routinely shooting over 50% on them. Careless ball handling and ball dominant offense has taken away from Indiana’s ability to execute efficiently. These are things they’ve done this year well, but there seems a complete lack of desire because of it.

What has been the singular cause of the downfall? Is there one? Has Lance Stephenson caused that much of a rift? Are the Pacers missing Mike Dunleavy that much? Did the non-trade break the already fragile psyche of the team? There’s little to suggest any of these things aren’t causing the Pacers to fall, and boy, have they fallen hard.

After the jump, a progress report on possibly cloning Tyler Hansbrough 12 times:

  • Tyler Hansbrough was beaten by the 76ers 110-26 tonight, and it’s unfortunate he wasn’t able to take care of an NBA team on his own. Alas, that’s the final score, so maybe better luck next time? Really, Hansbrough was the only player who consistently showed any fire. There’s no doubt this guy wants to win, and he doesn’t care how ugly it is. He did completely decimate the Sixers defense, going 11-14 for 26 points and 6 boards with three steals to his name.
  • Paul George grabbed ten rebounds, but only had six points. This is one of the things bothering me about the second unit. A.J. Price and Dahntay Jones are effectively the offensive go-tos of the second unit, while Hansbrough has those abilities, but with all the talk of starting two guard hindering George’s growth, what about being the fourth option in a unit of inefficient scorers? Is that a hindrance? George’s touches and effectiveness are being capped, either by not getting touches, or not receiving passes in favorable position. When the leading scorer in your starting lineup has 13 points, the more you can get from guys on your bench, the better. George needs to get more opportunities to lead the offense; he seems fully capable of doing so.
  • It breaks down like this offensively: The Pacers are averaging 99.4 points in their last eight. They were averaging 107.8 since Vogel had taken over to that point. In essence, a Pacers team that hasn’t played defense since Vogel took over is short 8 points a night thanks to Mike Dunleavy. But their defense has gotten much worse without Dunleavy as well, allowing six more points a game. So there we have a fourteen point turnaround in the past eight games. I’m not saying Mike is good defensively or terribly reliable offensively, but it’s also no lie this team has played far far worse without him.
  • The starting lineup Mike was once a part of scored 43 points tonight, getting 8.6 points per player. This is the Indiana Pacers starting lineup. While Josh McRoberts is an unreliable offensive player who shouldn’t be accounted for to carry the offensive load, Brandon Rush has been unsurprisingly invisible since he return to the starting lineup. The only starter who had even a decent game was Roy Hibbert, and it’s not like there’s much there.
  • But the worst of the worst? How about Danny Granger? Excuse me? Granger played 38 minutes and registered 11 field goal attempts. For all that is made about ineffectiveness when he does shoot, what about his ineffective by simply not shooting enough? He has gotten to the line in the past month very well, which has dropped his field goal attempts, but he didn’t get there tonight. It almost seems as if Granger is too preoccupied by how bad it would look if he went 8-25 for 22 points, but he’s not doing the team any favors by going 3-11 for 11 points. None whatsoever.

In essence, this team has been on the wrong side of the effort scale for a good little while and has lost four straight, six of seven, and eight straight against winning teams, and if a players’ only meeting can’t jolt the team to life even for a moment, what will? The Pacers are in Minneapolis tomorrow night to face the Minnesota Timberwolves. Given how they’ve played, it’s honestly hard to expect a win against them; after all, they nearly toppled the Pacers in Indianapolis if not for an inspired Dahntay Jones effort.