Indiana collapsing toward the end of the season was obviously not ideal as the number 1 team in the east. Based on last season’s playoffs and this year’s regular season, the Pacers looked like the only team in the east that could pose a serious threat to the two-time defending champion Miami Heat.
Now, it looks like the Pacers pose a serious threat to themselves.
Indiana barely made it out of the first round of the playoffs after getting tossed around by the 8-seed Atlanta Hawks in a 7-game series. Shooting, defending, rebounding, and confidence were nonexistent throughout most of the first round, which raises some concern moving forward.
A second round matchup with the rising Wizards would really test the Pacers’ toughness and ability to overcome adversity.
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Washington really tested Indiana’s toughness or lack thereof.
Bradley Beal put on a show in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of his 25 points while Trevor Ariza added 22 to lift the Wizards to a 102-96 win.
The game was really over from the beginning as the Pacers got off to a slow start and found no answer to the Wizards’ intensity.
Ariza hit two early 3-pointers to set the tone for the game and he never let up. He went 6-6 from downtown, becoming the 3rd player in NBA playoff history to make at least 6 3-point field goals without a miss and contributing to Washington’s franchise playoff record of 10 3-pointers. (From Elias)
On the defensive end, Ariza held Pacers players to 1-of-11 from the floor, including Paul George who he held to just three points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Washington played an all around spectacular game with a 53-36 rebounding advantage and outscoring Indiana 19-5 on second-chance points in addition to shooting 62.5 percent from 3-point range, the best against Indiana this season.
Everything has been working out quite well for the Wizards, so far, and I see no signs of that changing anytime soon.
The Wizards are 4-0 on the road in this year’s postseason. This is the first time since April 28, 1982 that the Wizards have won a game in the second round and the first time since 2005 that the Wizards have even advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Their last playoff appearance was in 2008.
As for the Pacers, I just don’t get it.
A team with NBA Championship caliber written all over it, battled and forced a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat last year and finished first in the Eastern Conference with a 56-26 record this year, but they could barely make it past the 8-seed Atlanta Hawks in the first round and let both the Hawks and Wizards win Game 1 on their home floor?
Are you kidding me, Indiana?
Ok, I guess it’s not fair to blame the entire team for this downfall, so I will place most of the blame on the 7’2”, 290 pound center, Roy Hibbert.
Hibbert had no points, no rebounds and 5 fouls in Game 1 against the Wizards on Monday. So far in the playoffs, he has gone scoreless three times and went scoreless with no rebounds in two games.
In the postseason, he’s averaging 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, shooting 36 percent from the field.
Those stats are embarrassing, disappointing and unacceptable.
There’s no excuse for those numbers but trust me, I’ve heard every Hibbert excuse in the book and I’m not buying any of them. From him not matching up well against opponents to him just not being athletic enough, all that talk just goes in one ear and out the other. Here’s why.
In the playoffs last season, Hibbert averaged 17 points per game on 51 percent shooting and 10 rebounds.
In Game 6 against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, he put up 24 points on 11-of-20 shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds and made a huge impact defensively, preventing opportunities in the lane, and helping Indiana force a game 7. Hibbert’s presence held the Heat to just 9 made field goals inside of 5 feet.
Against Miami in that entire series, Hibbert averaged 22 points, shooting 55 percent from the field and 10 rebounds per game. I’d say that’s pretty good especially against the Heat.
Before this year, Hibbert played pretty well in the playoffs. He averaged 11.7 points and 11 rebounds in the 2012 playoffs and 10 points and 6.8 rebounds the year before.
So, why should this year be any different? If anything, he should be getting better or at least stay consistent.
He had a decent regular season, too. He averaged 10.8 points, shooting 43 percent from the field and 6.6 rebounds.
There has to be something going on in Roy Hibbert’s mind or something going on off the court that we don’t know about. Maybe the aliens from Space Jam stole his talent, I don’t know.
I won’t start typing up any rumors or ridiculous scenarios because that would go against everything I stand for but something is just not right in the world of Roy Hibbert and I hope he and his teammates can figure it out and work together to overcome this obstacle because Indiana NEEDS him moving forward.
The Pacers will not go anywhere without him. I’ll start by saying that now. But there was a sign of hope in Game 7 against the Hawks when Hibbert scored 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting, grabbed 7 boards and blocked 5 shots. The Pacers need to do whatever they can to get the big man involved and continue to help boost his confidence.
As you all know, I am not Roy Hibbert nor am I a basketball player so I don’t understand the type of pressure or stress he could be under right now, but all I know is that he can play basketball and he can play at the NBA level. I have 20/20 vision so I’ve seen him ball out there and I know that he’s capable of doing A LOT more than he has been showing.
The Pacers can’t be outrebounded by the kind of margin they were outrebounded by the Wizards and that’s where Hibbert comes in.
While Indiana leads the league in defensive efficiency, its offense remains the problem. The Pacers rank 13th out of 16 teams in points per game but lucky for them their defense holds opponents to just as many points on average. The Wizards have the edge in three-point field goal percentage at 42 percent while the Pacers are shooting at 37 percent.
Three-pointers are a big issue for the Pacers moving forward and can’t allow the Wizards to go 63 percent from downtown. Washington’s backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal will be hard to stop in this series but everyone needs to step up.
Paul George needs to keep playing at a high level and take over games when needed. He needs to take better shots and drive to the basket a lot more than he has. His three-point shooting is inconsistent and I wouldn’t depend on it.
Lance Stephenson has really stepped his game up and the Pacers thrive off of his energy. He’s averaging 15 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in the playoffs this year, a big step up from last year’s playoffs when he only averaged 9 points and 7 rebounds. His field goal percentage has increased also.
Both David West and George Hill’s points per game have gone down from last year’s playoffs to this year, which can’t happen. I understand Stephenson is in his contract year but he needs to also make sure his teammates are getting touches and both West and Hill need to be more assertive.
I’d like to see Pacers coach Frank Vogel use his bench more. From C.J. Watson to Luis Scola and Evan Turner, Vogel has some options but I really think Indiana would benefit having Chris Copeland play more than 1 minute. He hit a three-pointer in the 60 seconds he played against Washington. Copeland can shoot and his offensive abilities must be utilized in this series. Wake up Frank Vogel and wake up Pacers!
I must reiterate this: The Pacers fought hard against the reigning champions in the playoffs last year, proving that they almost had what it took to beat them. They played almost every game like a playoff game in this year’s regular season, but now they decide to forget about all the work they put in to get this far and just give it all up?
Any place worth going requires giving 100 percent effort 100 percent of the time and never letting up. The Pacers need to get their act together and remember why it is they are here in the first place.
I still have faith in the Pacers, which is why I believe they will not only win Game 2 tonight, but they will also advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.