What can I say? Seriously.
The Pacers played better offensively, but they practically gave away the game tonight in Toronto but failing to score in the last 4 minutes and 23 seconds of the game. That turned a 94-92 lead into a 102-94 loss. It’s not like someone was hogging the ball. Roy Hibbert miss a shot while Paul George, David West and Lance Stephenson each missed two shots in the final minutes.
It needs to be said: Roy “Calling Out My Teammates” Hibbert stinks. 12 points, OK, but 5-13 shooting? 2 rebounds? The crazy thing is that it’s not even a surprise anymore. And on the other end of the floor, he was dominated — not outplayed, dominated — by third-year center Jonas Valanciunas, who had 22 and 9 on 10-14 shooting. It was embarrassing.
The only positives are that Paul George had 26 points on 7-17 (still need to get to 50%) and David West had 21. These two appear to be getting back into the swing of things. Lance had a quiet night with just 6 points in 28 minutes (foul trouble), and George Hill continues to be too passive.
As for the bench…sigh. When Donald Sloan is your best bench player you might as well call it a night. Evan Turner had 2 points on 1-8 shooting. That’s not what I envisioned when they traded for him.
Still, I like to think the Pacers are playing better than they were a few games ago. Toronto, despite missing Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson, are nonetheless a tough opponent at home, and they’ve been played well. So credit to the Pacers for keeping it close in the first half and making up for an 8-point deficit in the third quarter to enter the fourth quarter tied.
But it’s almost like they’ve forgotten how to play basketball and regressed back to the Jim O’Brien era where everyone is completely lost, especially down the stretch. Back in the day those days they had these type of frustrating games all the time, and it took them a few years to develop the type of mental toughness to pull out the close wins. Unfortunately, they only have 5 games left in the season to figure it out if they want to avoid a disappointing early end to their “all in” season.
The silver lining: Miami lost in double OT tonight to Minny to keep the Pacers just percentage points behind (though with an extra loss) for the top seed in the East. The Pacers will have a chance to gain some momentum by taking on the tanking Hawks on Sunday (they really want to enter the lottery but the Knicks won’t let them even though the Knicks want to make the playoffs) followed by the league’s worst team in the Bucks. Miami will play the Knicks, the Nets and the Grizzlies. And then, it’s the big one that could decide the top seed — Pacers vs Heat in Miami on Friday. If the Pacers win that one they still have a chance at the top seed, but if they lose it they’ll have to settle for second.