Indiana, we have a problem: Pacers freefall recommences in DC


Evan Turner wonders how he can care as much as the Wizards’ Al Harrington while Chris Copeland tries to wake Lance Stephenson up from himself

The Pacers went to DC on a high after beaten hated rivals the Miami Heat in a one-point thriller. They left DC scratching their heads again after regressing to the shitty play that’s been plaguing the team for more than a month and a half.

The final score was 91-78, but it felt worse. They shot 35% as a team and committed 17 turnovers. Roy Hibbert disappeared again, Lance Stephenson was 3-13, Evan Turner did not score and Paul George continued to whine about calls. It is what it is and it’s been going on for far too long for there not to be panic in Indiana.

Remember when people were speculating whether the Indiana Pacers would challenge 70 wins this season and eclipsing the franchise record of 61 wins was a foregone conclusion? Well don’t look now, but the Pacers will need to win all 10 of their remaining games to get to 62. It’s not gonna happen. With the way they’re going now there’s a much better chance the team will lose all 10 games than win them.

Hibbert saw a shrink last season to try and work out his offensive struggles, and it might not be a bad idea for the whole team to do the same right now before this once-promising season ends in bitter disappointment. Forget the first seed now — the team’s unenthusiastic play, lack of effort, predictable offense and slipping defense are much more troubling.

Paul George shot 6-22 against the Wizards and is shooting 36% over his last 10 games as his overall FG% for the season has fallen to 42.6%, which is actually below his career average of 42.9%. To be fair, even top dogs like LeBron and Durant have gone through shooting struggles like this earlier in their careers, and it appears PG is going through a similar phase now in his first year as a bona fide “star”. Maybe it’s the stripper baby scandal that’s got him all messed up mentally, but whatever it is, he needs to snap out of it real quick and stop whining about every call.

Lance Stephenson has reportedly gotten on his teammates’ nerves again, even more so than usual, with his “bad Lance” persona. When the team was winning they were happy to put up with his antics and risky play, but now the frustrations are starting to seep through. Whether it’s stopping the ball, stealing rebounds from teammates to pad stats or making unnecessarily flashy passes or getting ejected for stupid bravado in pivotal games, Born Ready doesn’t appear to have been ready for all the praise that has come his way this season because it’s clearly gone to his head.

Back in the day, David “Backbone” West stood out as the voice of authority and steadying influence on the team. The guys respected him, listened to him and let him lead them. Now they no longer pay him the same level of respect because they think they’re all that and have outgrown his authority. He’s looking more and more like a desperate parent unable to keep his rebellious teenage children in check.

And while we’re throwing blame around, let’s not forget coach Frank Vogel. We loved the never-ending positivism when the team was an underdog working their way up in the league. But to keep saying that things are fine and that he’s proud of them for not turning the ball over 20 times a game is getting old, especially when everyone can see things aren’t improving at all.

Could this be karma for picking up Andrew Bynum, who might only end up playing 2 games for them for $1 million, or for shipping their former franchise player Danny Granger? I still think getting Evan Turner is the right decision from a basketball perspective, but it does make you wonder whether the loss of Granger’s veteran voice and presence has had an effect on team chemistry.

As fans we tend to overreact, and that’s probably what I’m doing here. As they say, a week is an eternity in the NBA, and the Pacers still have a little over 2 weeks to right the ship before the playoffs. It can be done, but it’s not going to happen overnight and it’s going to require a lot of work from everyone on the roster and the coaching staff. Everything starts from effort and attitude, and from there they can start working on playing aggressively, sharing the ball, cleaning up the sloppiness and taking advantage of transition opportunities to kick start the anemic offense.

There are only 10 games left in the season and they include tough match-ups against the Spurs, the Raptors, the Heat and the Thunder. As Miami thrashed Milwaukee tonight they’re only 1.5 games behind the Pacers for the top seed, and realistically the Pacers will probably have to finish 7-3 (or 6-4 with another win over the Heat on the road) to have a shot at holding on.

Next game: @Cleveland