Pacers Notes: Pacers trying to bounce back, again, searching for consistent winning effort
The Pacers play a pair of games in Miami after closing out their homestand with a poor effort against the Blazers.
Was it really as bad as it looked and felt in the moment?
The Pacers 114-110 loss to the Blazers on Monday left an uneasy and unpleasant feeling for anyone rooting for the blue and gold. At first blush, the Pacers appeared to lack the required effort and focus needed to win an NBA game, even against a struggling Portland team. Still, throughout the game, it felt like the Pacers could just kick their game into gear and eventually pull out the win.
Just win, baby!
However, the gears kept slipping for the hometown heroes and they did well to close the final deficit to four points while taking the L. The spirit, the focus, the execution the Pacers showed during In-Season Tournament games has been tough to come by on a consistent basis in the team’s ‘regular’ regular season games.
Unfortunately, a second viewing of the game unearthed few positives and instead confirmed the puzzling approach and lack of intensity the Pacers played with to earn their seventh loss.
Let’s start with rebounds, fouls and turnovers the Rick Carlisle’s uses to judge his teams effectiveness. The Pacers actually won the rebound battle, 42-38 which always requires a team effort to hold their own on the glass. Nine Pacers had at least two rebounds with Myles Turner leading the way with eight. See? Not all negative.
The Pacers only had three more fouls than the Blazers, but the visitors made (25) more free throws than the Pacers shot (24). The Pacers also missed six freebies which put them -7 at the line in a four-point game. Similarly, the Pacers were -5 in points off turnovers while losing the donation battle, 20-16.
The missed free throws and turnovers are signs of a lack of focus that is so frustrating to watch. Equally frustrating when individuals lose their man on defense, or those defensive rotations are either late or non-existent. When things go sideways at the defensive end, the lack of communication is glaring and has to be more a result of the players being uncomfortable with what they are supposed to do than just being quiet. If players aren’t sure, they aren’t going to call out where they are and what they need their teammates to know.
There have been solid defensive stretches in several games this year, but far more bad than good. Carlisle believes it is effort holding back the defense and the style of defense they want to execute requires toughness and focus to give the necessary effort, to battle over screens and minimize relying on help.
The other effort area that stuck out was how several players passed up open shots or bobbled passes, appearing not as dialed in as they should be for the pass to come their way. Being shot ready is preached in Indiana from the time hoopers can stand upright and hold a ball. Not being shot ready and missing the tight window to snap off an open look, or bobbling a pass, like missing free throws, are often prime examples of lacking focus and intensity. Even Tyrese Haliburton seemed out of sync and off his game, but you’d never know it considering he had 33 points and 9 assists. Still, overall the end result revealed a frustrating effort that is not good enough.
The Pacers are young and appear too immature, from a professional basketball player perspective, to consistently give a winning effort. Add the loss to Portland to other missed opportunities against the Bulls, Hornets and Raptors that were chock full of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ but short on seizing the W when it was still up for grabs.
The Pacers can win pretty and when they are rolling have proven to be among the most entertaining teams in the league. But to succeed to a level they aspire, the Pacers have to figure out how to grind out ugly wins, as well.
Off to Miami, Stix stays home
The Pacers face another type of challenge to close out the week with two games in three days against the Heat in Miami. The South Beach Flu is no joke and the Pacers have three nights and three days to avoid any of the many possible side effects. Whew!
The Heat have a lengthy injury list which includes Jimmy Butler as questionable and Tyler Herro out, both dealing with ankle sprains. But missed the last game on Tuesday, but remains listed as questionable.
The Pacers will be without Jalen Smith who has a bruised heel and knee which will keep him out until he is checked out next week. Seems like he will need to be cleared in a hurry, assuming next week means Monday, so Stix is available to play the Celtics in the IST quarter-final matchup on Monday. Oscar Tshiebwe will fill the roster spot for Smith since the Pacers are down to two centers.
How the Pacers manage their big man rotation will be interesting. No. 8 pick Jarace Walker could be in line for some run if Carlisle is willing to play a bit smaller. The rook scored 20 points for the Mad Ants on Tuesday at the Fieldhouse.
In-Season Tournament continues
As mentioned above, the Pacers are one of eight teams remaining in the NBA In-Season Tournament. The Pacers finished as the No. 2 seed in the East and for their quality effort get to play the Celtics at the Fieldhouse on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on TNT which, along with the opponent, makes it an even more daunting task for the Pacers. These national TV games always seem to go sideways for the Pacers, especially after gaining some national notoriety for their play.
Where: Kaseya Center, Miami, FL
When: Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports
Radio: 93.5/107.5 The Fan
Pacers: Tyrese Haliburton, Bruce Brown, Buddy Hield, Obi Toppin, Myles Turner
Heat: Kyle Lowry, Josh Richrdson, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Love, Bam Adebayo
Pacers: Jalen Smith (heel, knee) - out
Heat: Bam Adebayo (hip) - probable, Duncan Robinson (thumb) - probable, Jimmy Butler (ankle) - questionable, Haywood Highsmith (lower back) - questionable, R.J. Hampton (knee) - out, Tyler Herro (ankle) - out, Dru Smith (knee) - out
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