The Pacers are picking up the pieces after two tough losses on the road that will keep them out of any conversation to make noise in the playoffs until they actually make noise in the playoffs.
Still, despite second-half meltdowns in both Milwaukee and Philadelphia, the Pacers are still tied in the won/loss column with the Sixers, however now a game behind due to the tie breaker. All is not lost at this point, just two games in the grand scheme of things.
But the Pacers have to be much sharper going forward, without a doubt. Eddie Gill observed following the loss in Philly, which included a lot of missed shots, including 15 at the free throw line, that the Pacers didn’t approach the game with the right mentality. A lack of focus shows up in all of those clanks from the line.
This isn’t the first time this season the Pacers have suffered through a rough night from the free throw line. Also, we’ve seen them come on flat and fall behind in several games they were expected to win.
While they are splitting the go-to-guy duties among several players, the mentality of being used to someone else being the alpha dog, go-to-guy is hard to change. Those slow starts and at other times, late-game execution failures reek of a group of guys used to looking to someone else to do the heavy lifting.
They have survived against the sub-.500 teams, banding together to share the load and earn W’s in impressive fashion. But when the other team has a Guy (capital G guy) like Giannis or Embiid, the Pacers are at a disadvantage without that focal point on offense to play off of and create offense at crunch time. Since a player like that won’t be walking in the Pacers locker room, they have to tighten up the focus and details (turnovers, rebounding, free throws) to force better teams to beat them rather than making it easy on the other team.
After playing the Knicks tonight, the Pacers will have plenty of opportunities to raise their game to another level with 12 of the following 13 games against playoff teams. They will return to the comfortable role of underdog, so time to let ‘er rip.
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