The Indiana Pacers tore through the NBA to start the 2013-14 regular season. Posting the best record in the league for much of the season, there was serious conversation about whether or not the Pacers had already surpassed the two-time defending NBA Champion Miami Heat as the favorites to be hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end of this year’s postseason.
Over the last month or so though, things have started to fall apart to some degree for Indiana. They’ve maintained their position at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, but after starting the season going 39-10, this Pacers team is only 12-9 since Feb. 7. That’s hardly how a team that received the label of title-favorites would ideally want to be performing down the stretch.
On Saturday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Pacers’ struggles continued and were possibly at their most poignant. Granted Indiana was up against one of the best defensive teams in the league in Memphis, but they looked absolutely atrocious in the matchup.
In a loss, the Pacers managed just 71 points. That in itself is a less-than-positive sign for this team. The way that they managed that poor output was even more uninspiring, though. Indiana shot just 36.5 percent on the night, just 6-15 from three. Possibly the worst part for them was the fact that they were out-rebounded 47-35 on the evening and surrendered nearly 11 points more in the paint than what they have given up on average this season.
There are a number of areas you can point to when talking about the Pacers’ issues right now. You can discuss Evan Turner not totally being acclimated into this system. You can talk about how Paul George has been struggling mightily as of late. You can bring up the fact that guys like Lance Stephenson and David West have been inconsistent lately. Whatever you say is the cause, though, this couldn’t be happening at a worse time.
Obviously the Heat are experiencing their own struggles right now, but those are far less concerning than the Pacers’. Miami has had their issues in previous seasons as well and things have always seemed to work out in the postseason.
However, the Pacers’ success this year was largely predicated on the innate chemistry these guys have played with and that seems to have been disrupted for one reason or another. With less than a month before the postseason, Frank Vogel and company need to find a solution promptly. Things can still get better and this team has shown they can contend for a title; but if things don’t improve sooner rather than later, it’s hard to consider this team the favorites in the East, much less the league, much longer.