by Bert Beiswanger
After the Pacers’ latest humiliating performance Saturday in Houston, a 112-86 loss to the Rockets, I was left thinking this team is a mess right now. If that performance surprised you, you aren’t paying attention. I didn’t need to watch this game, though I tried to as hard as it was. I told someone before the game that the Pacers would get rolled and they did.
Before I go on, let me make one thing clear: In my opinion, everything this season is about getting the #1 seed. It’s always been about that and the Pacers players have said as much. So, if I hear one more person nonchalantly say that nothing matters until the Eastern Conference Playoffs, I’m going to puke. If the Pacers don’t get the #1 seed, I give them a 30 percent chance of beating the Miami Heat in the conference finals. If they get the #1 seed, I give them a 50 percent chance. Don’t pass this current stretch of the Pacers playing their way into the #2 seed off as something meaningless, because it’s not.
But, right now, they couldn’t beat the Chicago Bulls in a series. And that’s the real problem.
People have come up with a lot reasons why the Pacers aren’t playing well – defense, Roy Hibbert, point guard play, Paul George playing like Phyllis George, no offensive flow, Evan Turner. Frankly, at this point, there are too many to count. And I agree with most of them.
The one excuse I don’t agree with right now is the notion that Evan Turner single-handedly has changed the team’s chemistry. The performance decline with this team started the night it blew a 17 point third quarter lead to Orlando, the second worst team in the league. The decline was solidified the next night when the Pacers could barely muster 70 points at home against Dallas. In two nights, the Pacers went from being up three and a half games on Miami to one and a half. Evan Turner wasn’t on the team, yet.
For those who think Turner is to blame and shoots too much, maybe he wouldn’t have to if the Pacers max-contract players, George and Hibbert, could score consistently and be more assertive. You see, this is a star league. Your high price, star players have to play like high price, star players. If they don’t, you’re in trouble. Wednesday night in Charlotte, Paul George went 0-9 with two points. TWO points. Hibbert chipped in with four points. FOUR points. That’s, what, six points for 28 million dollars against the Charlotte Bobcats? And some want to blame Evan Turner?
Against the Rockets, the Pacers starters/leaders – George, Hibbert, Lance Stephenson, George Hill and David West combined for 45 points. That’s right, 45 points. The fact of the matter is the Pacers’ best players aren’t getting it done right now. And Turner only played 15 minutes, so how much blame do you want to throw his way? This is all on the Paul Georges and Roy Hibberts of the world.
If you want to argue Turner doesn’t solve the Pacers’ problem of lack of perimeter shooting necessary to extend defenses, I’ll listen to that. They still lack consistent perimeter shooting, and it makes you wonder why Rasual Butler (who did play 21 minutes Friday night) and Chris Copeland haven’t gotten a fair shot to help answer that problem; everyone else has. But chemistry issues? If Evan Turner has messed with the chemistry of this team in a negative way, then this team is mentally weaker than I thought.
This recent decline started before the arrival of Turner, and it is the responsibility of the leaders on this team to continue to lead on the floor and work Turner into the mix. A player like George going 0-9 shooting is beyond comprehension for me. I can’t think of another star player in the league who has done something like that. Heck, I’d be happier with 2-15. At least it would point to a little more assertiveness. More assertiveness and production from the core group is what is needed more than anything.
For now, gold swagger has turned into bronze swagger and it better change back soon. Otherwise, the #1 seed will turn into the #2 seed and the real problems begin.
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