George Hill was on fire. A three point play and a three-pointer helped the Pacers tie the game with the Timberwolves at 94 with less than 4 seconds left. On the Wolves’ final possession, new addition Gerald Green momentarily lost track of his man, Chase Budinger. Pass. Lay up. Game over. Pacers fall to 2-4 to start the 2012-2013 season.
There’s no doubting it anymore. The Pacers are struggling and need help. It’s no longer a question of whether this team will challenge the Heat in the East — even making the playoffs is now in serious question. On the bright side, the Pacers have played 5 of their 6 games on the road so far. There’s still 75 games left and plenty of time to right the ship. Danny Granger will eventually be back (even though he might not be 100%).
But there are plenty of issues to be addressed and it looks like perhaps this team is not as good as we thought it was. David West and George Hill are now the indisputed alpha dogs with Granger out. They are the team’s go-to guys, and rightfully so. Paul George has shown he is not ready to carry the load offensively. He has made strides to his overall game, but his scoring and shooting percentages remain relatively weak. Roy Hibbert, sigh, might never be more than what he is now. The Pacers had no choice to overpay him over the summer and everyone loves what he does in the community and with the fans. But let’s be real. He hasn’t come close to playing like a max player. Not even a solid starting NBA center, which is the absolute minimum of what is expected of him. It’s depressing.
The biggest problem to me is the poor play of the trio of newcomers who were supposed to improve the team. As Darren Collison continues to break out in Dallas, DJ Augustin has struggled mightily. I don’t think I’ve ever seen his confidence this low, and I’ve seen him play on the worst team of all time in Charlotte. Gerald Green can score, but as we saw tonight, his defense and shot selection still leaves a lot to be desired. And with the way Hibbert has been playing so far, you’d think Mahinmi could steal some more minutes.
The only major positive I’ve seen apart from Hill being ready to step up and West’s recovery is — I never thought I’d say this — Lance Stephenson. There’s not much to say except he’s finally ready.