Pacers battling through a trying stretch after three consecutive losses
The All-Star break can't arrive soon enough for the Pacers as they continue to mix and match their healthy and semi-healthy players on a day-to-day basis.
Seems like a month since I wrote about the Pacers but it has just been a week. While other life events took priority this week, I found zooming out and digesting the week as a whole instead of each individual game to be enlightening.
The Pacers wrapped up a streaky January this week and then continued streaking into February. The month started with a three-game winning streak, the back half of a six-game streak that started in 2023. Throughout the month there were two additional three-game winning streaks and then two three-game losing streaks which is where the Pacers sit as they prepare to face the Hornets on Sunday evening in Charlotte.
The current three-game streak came against the Celtics, Knicks and Kings — three of the better teams in the NBA, or in Boston’s case, the best team. The two road losses in Boston and New York were spirited affairs that had anyone watching considering how fun a playoff series would be between the two team.
Despite the fight, the Pacers didn’t have enough in either game with the Tyrese Haliburton hitting the rev limiter at 22 minutes in all three games. This, along with Bennedict Mathurin, TJ McConnell, Myles Turner and Jalen Smith being in an out of action made for discombobulated rotation combinations all week.
Hali has to play to work his way back from the hammy, but when he was out, the team thrived with their set roles. Combine this with the injury issues, the severity of which is unknown, and the Pacers are struggling.
Oh, and the trade deadline is next Thursday, so not only is the collective team struggling to work through their issues, but each individual player has their own mental and physical issues they are bringing to the gym.
These are the times which highlight how useless player and coaches quotes are in analyzing a team. Players who are available are fine until they aren’t the next game. Myles Turner took plenty of heat for his play against the Knicks, but he wasn’t moving right and then missed the next game. Mathurin missed two games with a toe injury and the potential spark he can provide was noticeably absent against the C’s and Knicks. Then he played on Friday and hit the Kings for 31 points. But the big toe injury will likely flare up and remain pesky at least until the break.
Buddy Hield has shot (and missed) his way out of a starting spot of late, but that depends on when Haliburton is playing and how much. With TJ McConnell recently starting, Mathurin joined him against the Kings. One thing we learned this week is that TJ and Mathurin, whether starting or off the bench, were missed. Plus, Buddy and Hali in a reserve role together makes more sense, but in reality nothing makes sense right now.
The Pacers have six game remaining before the All-Star break and they can’t get through this stretch soon enough. The lethal schedule they have endured over the past two weeks is in the past as they tip off a lighter stretch before the break in Charlotte.
First and foremost, they need some wins. Another three-game winning streak would be nice to see before the break, no?
They also need stability on the roster which will shake out after the trade deadline on Thursday. Not more rumors or speculation about players moving or staying. Chad Buchanan indicated in an interview with JMV last week that he didn’t expect the Pacers to be active at the deadline after acquiring Pascal Siakam. But, as with player health comments, nothing said in the media is reliable at this time of year.
Siakam definitely needs some help and good health would be enough to provide that. Teams are loading up on him at crunch time without a healthy Haliburton to attend to. Honestly, if Hali continues to play his 22 minutes per game until the break, it would be nice if all of those were with Siakam. They can’t get enough time together.
The good news for the Pacers is that, despite the three-game losing streak, the Pacers remain in sixth place, but just a half game ahead of Miami and Orlando who are enduring similar inconsistent results.
The opportunity remains for the Pacers to close out the six-game stretch before the break on a positive note. That would be a huge step, allowing the Pacers to emerge from the break with better health and focus after letting go of the current distractions.
Oh, one more thing. Forget the losses and annoying injury variance among many on the roster. The thing that made me most nervous this week was Tyrese Haliburton’s leather ensemble in New York. I’m extremely paranoid about Pacers superstar arcs and I’ve seen this move before. Twice, actually. The monstrous money hits and then people start telling you this is a good look (I mean, the trench coat is pretty sweet). And you believe them! Next thing you know, you want some time off to promote a new rap album.
In Tyrese we trust to be different this time. But tread carefully young fella.
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
When: Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, 6:00 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan
Pacers: Andrew Nembhard, Buddy Hield, Aaron Nesmith, Pascal Siakam, Myles Turner
Hornets: Cody Martin, Brandon Miller, Bryce McGowens, Miles Bridges, Nick Richards
Pacers: Jalen Smith (back) - questionable, Tyrese Haliburton (left hamstring) - questionable, Bennedict Mathurin (right toe) - questionable, Myles Turner (back) - questionable
Hornets: Frank Ntilikina (right hip) - questionable, LaMelo Ball (ankle) - out, Gordon Hayward (calf strain) - out, Kyle Lowry (not with team) - out, Mark Williams (back) - out
Indy Cornrows with Tom Lewis is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.