For a second straight year, the Indiana Pacers leave the playoffs black and blue and swaggerless at the hands of the Miami Heat. The Pacers fought off elimination with a desperation win in Game 5 but came up short again. This year the team was supposed to be wiser. Instead, they came out after the All-Star Game limp and looked as though they’ve taken steps backwards.
That late-season slump led to the Pacers stumbling into the playoffs looking lost against the Atlanta Hawks and befuddled against the upstart Washington Wizards. Bruised and tearing at the seams, the Pacers got to their nemesis and came out looking like total chumps.
It was the officiating and home-cooking Indy said. But really it was all about earning home-court advantage. No, actually it was the play calling. Wait, on second thought it was most definitely all Lance Stephenson‘s fault.
You can easily compile a list of excuses, but the one that stands out to me is mental toughness— or lack thereof. The Pacers have talent and depth up and down the roster, but their leading men are not mentally tough. Not when Paul George is claiming bad officiating for a loss, not when Lance Stephenson gets thrown under the bus by his own teammates.
And it’s certainly not a good sign when your biggest star, Roy Hibbert, is seven-foot and puts up four donuts in the playoffs. This team is deficient of leaders and once again LeBron James and the Miami Heat have shown why they’re championship caliber and the Indiana Pacers are well…not quite there.
Putting up a good fight is admirable, but winning is the name of the game here. And Indiana has failed to close the deal with this roster. The early exit from the playoffs gives Lance plenty of time to work on his kissing and Larry Bird time to ponder his next move, including who may end up getting shipped out.
And shipping players out may be the best plan because as of right now, this team is too young, made up of too many individuals to compete with the likes of the Miami Heat.
Indiana earned home-court advantage and fumbled it away. The Pacers tried relying on their stars only to have them fold at the worst possible time. And blowing kisses LeBron’s way can only go so far. This team will have to come up with new strategies and quickly in order to get over the hump.
But it’s safe to say, kisses definitely won’t work.