Veterans David West and Rasual Butler were having a very public, private chat just outside the main dressing area as the media entered the locker room. The hushed discussion lasted several minutes with Ian Mahinmi joining in at one point. Team things were discussed, and the indication from the tone the players seemed to take with each other was that they had to get everybody back on the same page.
We don't know what happened after the game which led to the vets putting their heads together, but we do know this loss seemed to shake the Pacers straight. Their defense which prides itself on making life difficult for opponents has been too spotty of late. As West mentioned after the game, the Pacers allowed Golden State's shooters to get too comfortable. Klay Thompson in particular made himself feel right at home in the Fieldhouse.
"They were too comfortable and I don't think we stayed the course, in terms of our aggressiveness and our fight," West said. "They're a jump-shooting team and they got comfortable. Thompson got real comfortable. We had to fight uphill basically the six minutes in the fourth quarter just to (try and) steal a win on our home court."
Actually, it was still a 12-point game with just over five minutes to go before West triggered a 10-0 run with a jumper and then later picked Steph Curry for a steal and dunk. But with the ball and a chance to take the lead, the Pacers didn't look like they were on the same page for their final full possession. West and Paul George were directing traffic (Lance) to get people in the right spots. They ran the play action bunched up in the middle of the floor which allowed Golden State to switch and cover up the initial look for PG. Forced to create late in the shot clock, an off-target three from PG was the end result.
So this loss leads to another tough challenge on the road in Charlotte on Wednesday night. No time to work through their issues in practice, but it is time to change their approach, as West said.
"Mentally, we've got to be way tougher than we are, because it's time," West said. "It's just time. It's not just something that you can just a week before the playoffs say, 'OK,' ... You've got to work your way into it. As a group, it's time. We've got a tough 3-game trip coming up, and it's just time."
The salty post-game locker room seemed to find the Pacers at a potential turning point where they can either come together under the leadership of their veteran voices or continue mounting their frustrations while watching the foundation from the early-season effort toward their stated goals further erode.
Despite all of the drama at the Fieldhouse, the Pacers remained two games up on the Heat who took a loss in Houston. There's still no doubt that the Pacers are championship contenders this year. Now they just have to play like it.
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