Have to be mad at somebody, right?
Social media reflects the frustration felt by Pacers fans. Some are pissed at coach Nate McMillan. Others welcome Victor Oladipo leaving as a free agent. A bunch are still yelling about how annoying they believe ESPN’s Doris Burke to be, as though he hyper-executed articulation is causing Malcolm Brogdon to miss shots.
The Pacers now have to win four of the final five games of a series in which they have not been seriously competitive.
So why have the Pacers foundered to this point? That’s the question. What are the factors that have taken the Pacers to the brink of an early reprieve from Bubble life? Here are nine answers:
No Domas – Sabonis was the Pacers lone all-star this season, and he has been in Los Angeles getting treatment for plantar fasciitis since July. Averaging 18.5 points and 13 rebounds, and bringing a physicality to the squad, Sabonis helped the Pacers compete. His absence in a wide variety of ways has been noticeable.
Heat defense makes Pacers uncomfortable – The Heat defense is very skilled at making difficult the process of finding makable shots by switching at all five spots. The Heat play basketball like Greg Maddux pitched. They get offenses off balance, and that causes tentative execution. Only teams with extreme discipline or superior talent expose the Heat defense. The Pacers have neither.
Lack of healthy talent – Sabonis is gone, Oladipo is still rehabbing, Brodgon is dinged up, and T.J. Warren is dealing with plantar fasciitis of his own. Those four guys are the best the Pacers have.
When healthy, the Pacers are without a player in the NBA’s top 25 – In a seven game series, talent will almost always win. The Pacers have not drafted a player in the single digits since George McCloud was selected 9th in 1989. They have traded for guys like Oladipo and acquired the draft rights to Jonathan Bender (5th overall in 1999), but building a roster of studs has been a tough task for Donnie Walsh, Larry Bird, and Kevin Pritchard. Without studs, well, you saw what not having studs does.
Duncan Robinson went off today – When a shooter like Robinson is allowed to get a clean cut to an open spot, he is going to make shots. Without the discipline needed to stay with Robinson regardless of the situation, he is going to kill you.
The Pacers are not as deep as the Heat – No offense to Edmund Sumner, but if he plays real minutes in the postseason, opponents are going to be able to defend the other four Pacers on the floor with their five. Doug McDermott has not delivered in this series yet
When the Heat hit the gas, they blow by the Pacers – There are moments in a game when teams decide they need to raise their intensity to win. While the Heat have done that – the Pacers have failed to match in aggressiveness or execution.
Experience – Jimmy Butler is 30. Andre Iguodala is 36. Jae Crowder is 30. Goran Dragic is 34. Bam Adebayo is the outlier at 23. The oldest Pacers starter is Oladipo at 28, and the only Pacer older than 28 is Justin Holiday, 31. There is something to be said for having been there, done that. Myles Turner is the longest tenured Pacers; he is 24.
Jeremy Lamb – I don’t know what Lamb would have been able to if healthy that others on the Pacers have not done, but he is another rotational piece whose lack of availability has forced the Pacers to play guys who can’t compete in a high level series.
That’s nine issues weighing against the Pacers without a single mention of coaches Nate McMillan and Erik Spoelstra. Before Pacers fans go haywire and scream louder for Nate to become the former coach, remember that given all of the roster tumult, injuries, and COVID-19 challenges, the Pacers were 45-28 in the regular season. McMillan is not perfect, but be careful what you wish for if you want Nate gone.
An exhumed and revitalized Red Aeurbach would be 0-2 against the Heat in this series.