Sorry for the two-game hiatus. I've been busy, but the Pacers had been getting by just fine without me, squeezing past a couple of bad teams in Boston (102-97) and Utah (94-91) without George Hill (shoulder) to string together a 5-game winning streak.
But it was obvious to anyone watching that the Pacers aren't playing that great right now and despite the fact that they own the best record in the league it appears to be an uphill battle for them to keep it. And so when they faced their first "good" team in Golden State, I knew it was going to be tough to pull out a victory, even at home.
The Pacers looked like losing for most of the night but someone managed to fight back behind some stellar plays down the stretch. With the game tied at 96 apiece, Klay Thompson simply backed down the smaller George Hill and drilled a turnaround jumper to give the Warriors a 98-96 lead with just 0.6 seconds left on the clock.
The Pacers had a chance to win but a Paul George desperation three clanked off the back rim at the buzzer. They fall to 46-14 for the season, still best in the league, but failed to gain a game on Miami, who lost in Houston as Lebron missed a three at the buzzer (a night after he put up a career high 61 against the Bobcats). So the Pacers remain 2 games ahead of the Heat for the race for the first seed in the East, and just 1 game ahead in the loss column.
David West led the Pacers with 27 tonight and is by far the team's most reliable player right now. Paul George had 26 but was just 8-23, while Roy Hibbert had 12 but only grabbed 3 rebounds. Lance had 12, 9 and 3, and George Hill had 8 in his first game back.
The bench was atrocious and deserves to be blamed for the loss, with Evan Turner being the worst culprit with a goose egg on 5 shots on top of bad defense. It's hard seeing him play a worse game in a Pacers uniform, and on the bright side Danny Granger was also scoreless in his season debut for the Clippers as he played just 4 minutes. Apart from Luis Scola, who had 8, the rest of the Pacers bench delivered a whopping 3 points. Not good enough guys.
With Miami looking incredible right now despite tonight's loss, the Pacers will have to really buckle down if they want to secure that all-important top seed. They've struggled on the second night of back-to-backs, so we'll see what they are made of tomorrow night against the Bobcats on the road. They'll then take on a much improved Rockets team (which will be eager for revenge after the thumping the Pacers gave them in Indy earlier in the season) followed by Dallas, which gave the Pacers their most embarrassing loss just before the All-Star break with a disgusting 81-73 lesson at home.
As David West said after tonight's game: "Mentally, we've got to be way tougher than we are because it's time, you know, it's just time. It's just not something that you can just say a week before the playoffs, say, 'OK.' You've got to work your way into it. But as a group, it's time. We've got a tough three-game trip coming up and it's just time."
Yes it is.