The Indiana Pacers have not looked like themselves as of late. Coming down the stretch of the regular season, the Pacers are lacking consistent production and looking weak. The team recently lost its position in first place to their rivals, the Miami Heat, and are no longer looking like favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. On Friday night, the Toronto Raptors beat the Pacers 102-94, and in the win, Toronto exposed all of the Pacers recent woes.
Indiana is now 2-6 in their last eight games and in five of those games, the Pacers lost by 10 or more points. Toronto continued to expose the Pacers’ recent problems. Roy Hibbert has been awful lately. The Raptors held Hibbert to 12 points, but more importantly, he only had two rebounds. Hibbert’s numbers have been going down. For the month of March, his numbers have dropped, he is averaging 3.5 less points and 3.4 less rebounds per game. The Pacers are a stronger team when Hibbert is producing at his highest level. Teams have been able to shut him, dominate the front court and beat Indiana. Toronto’s starting center, Jonas Valanciunas, completely dominated Hibbert on Friday, with 22 points and nine rebounds.
The Pacers’ shooting has decreased as well. Against the Raptors, the team only shot 42.3 percent from field-goal range. Over the last 10 games, Indiana has been shooting 39 percent from field-goal range. What once was a strong offense, has been coming apart and playing dysfunctional basketball. Indiana’s offense looks lost on the court, while everyone plays for themselves. The Pacers need to find a way to solve this problem before the postseason starts or it could ruin their season.
The Raptors did not play starting point guard Kyle Lowry or starting power forward Amir Johnson. With both of these players sitting, the Pacers should have beat Toronto. Even with starters missing, Toronto was able to take apart Indiana’s defense. The Raptor’s offense was led by Terrance Ross. He had 24 points, shot 47 percent from the field and 62 percent from behind the arc. The Pacers were known for excellent defense, but recently, their defense has been horrible. The team needs to improve its perimeter defense especially. The Pacers have allowed their opponent to shot over 42 percent from behind the arc in the last five games. If the Pacers don’t step it up defensively, they will be in a lot of trouble.
Indiana is not playing like the team we are used to seeing and it’s hard to point a finger at anyone in particular. Overall, the Pacers have a lot of things to work on. Indiana could of succumbed to outside pressure or might be physically worn out with these end of the season road trips, either way, the Pacers have to figure out what is making the team come apart.