It's difficult to find much positive in how the Indiana Pacers played in their 108-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. The Pacers got down early, trailed by double figures after one and never drew within ten the remainder of the game. Atlanta pushed their lead up to 21 in the third quarter and while a fourth quarter Pacers run gave Indiana some life brief life after cutting it to 13, an offensive foul sparked a 6-0 Hawks run that would put the game out of reach for good.
The Pacers shot 44% on the night, but allowed 51.9% shooting to the Hawks, who opened up on the right note, torching Indiana for five three pointers (four in the corners) in the first quarter. Turnovers didn't help Indiana's case, they had 17 on the night, including two on their first two possessions.
In fact, while Donald Sloan hadn't been playing particularly well leading up to his benching that moved Rodney Stuckey to the point and Chris Copeland into the starting lineup, the Pacers have been mired in a series of slow starts in the past three games, coincidental or otherwise. The Pacers are averaging 17.3 points in the first quarter the last three games, no surprise trailing in all of three of them.
While a switch in the starting lineup likely won't make much difference across 48 minutes, it's been play in the first quarter that's certainly contributed to Indiana's presence in the loss column in the past three games. Part of that no doubt is going to continue being a personnel problem, however. Donald Sloan or Rodney Stuckey? Regardless of who gives you a better shot at winning, neither is a particularly ideal option to lead your team.
Or how to go about getting something from Chris Copeland? Copeland has averaged 4.7 point on 5-20 shooting since his return to the starting lineup, though at six points on 2-6 shooting tonight, had by far his best game of the past three. But swapping starting lineup issues to the bench only does so much if players don't play well.
C.J. Miles for example exploded in the fourth quarter tonight, scoring 15 in the fourth quarter on four three pointers (one a four point play), but his streaky play has made him difficult to rely on in terms of moving him into the starting lineup if he doesn't play much better than Copeland has. None of the questions about fringe starters helps when your set in stone starters also play poorly.
David West and Roy Hibbert made minimal impact tonight, combining for 17 points, doing little on either side of the floor to make a wealth of difference. The lack of personnel will continue to have lingering effects especially now that Ian Mahinmi is expected out for the next 6-8 weeks. Atlanta scored 48 points in the paint tonight, 26 of which came in the 19 minutes Lavoy Allen was on the floor.
Allen had six points, but for as well as he's played as a PF, there could be a lot of issues coming his way to play the center role for an extended period of time. The Pacers can't score; they haven't had a single 20-point scorer in this five game losing streak, and as evidenced by facing nine separate 20-point scorers, they're not doing a great job stopping scorers either.
Indiana has been playing with less of the fiery effort they had to open the season. That's to be expected, especially on an every night basis, but tonight's effort had stretches where they were simply not a part of the game in any real way. That's not to take away from Luis Scola, who's continued to be one of Indiana's brightest spots, coming up with 12 points and nine rebounds tonight (pulling in half of Indiana's eight offensive boards).
But Scola aside, this team needs help and fast. The schedule continues to stay tough, with the Clippers, Raptors, and Trail Blazers all looming the rest of the week, creating a realistic possibility of Indiana's losing streak extending to eight games if Frank Vogel and his staff can't find a combination that works and if the players can't find some reliability.