Okay, okay. I’m just gonna come right out and say it, I’m an Indiana Pacers homer and apologist. I’ve been a Pacers fan since I’ve been in diapers and not even the darkest days of my fandom (The Brawl, Jim O’Brien era) could stop me from bleeding blue and gold. You can imagine the excitement and optimism flowing through even the most cynical of Pacers fans during the first half of the 2014 season. Our boys were actually taking the NBA by storm with good old fashioned blue collar basketball; we even have a superstar in Paul George! Roy Hibbert was anchoring our historically good defense, Lance Stephenson was Sir Lance-a-Lot and David West was the epitome of our identity, an “old school lunch bucket” type of player.
But something happened. Something went terribly, terribly wrong. Something so wrong, in fact, that Indiana now faces a 3-2 deficit against the 8 seeded Atlanta Hawks. This Pacers team that only lost a handful of home games all year, has now dropped 3 of its last 4 home games against these Hawks.
This once vaunted Pacers defense has been turned pedestrian by the likes of Mike Scott and DeMarre Carroll. Roy Hibbert’s famous “straight up’s” have been transformed into infamous “straight to the bench’s” by Pero Antic. The Pacers are being disassembled by a Jim O’Brien ‘gimmick’ offense and Frank Vogel’s squad are so stuck in their own ways that they refuse to adapt; ensuring that they will die.
I will not continue to pound the same tired storylines into your head. You’ve heard it all before, “Indiana needs to rediscover it’s identity.” or how the “Danny Granger trade destroyed the locker room”; instead, I am going to tell you how the Pacers can come back and win this series.
The absolute first thing the Pacers need to do is bench Roy Hibbert. Vogel has given Roy every opportunity to get things turned around and it’s been an utter disaster. Hibbert only logged about 15 minutes in Game 5 (mainly due to foul trouble) and it’s time for Frank to take that one step further and sit Hibbert all together for Game 6.
The next step would be to trot out a starting lineup of Watson/Stephenson/George/West/Scola. The Pacers have to put egos aside and play the players on the court that give them the best chance to win; that means playing small ball and bringing Hill/Turner/Copeland/Mahinmi off the bench. This could very well be the final game of the season for Indiana and Vogel seems content to go down with the ship instead of making the necessary adjustments to win. If he can overcome his stubbornness, if only for Game Six, he will give his team a better chance to succeed.
And for the love of everything, THEY HAVE TO START SWITCHING ON PICK AND ROLLS. We have seen this team refuse to do this for years and it is going to get them bounced by the worst team in the playoffs. Please allow me to make myself 100% clear:
If the Pacers do not switch on the pick and roll in Game 6, the Atlanta Hawks will continue to rain down three’s and the Pacers will be eliminated.
It is absolutely imperative that you make a guy like Kyle Korver put it on the floor by not allowing him the space to catch and shoot. We have seen this happen every single game, not just by Korver, but by every shooter they have. Atlanta is going to shoot 25-30 these pointers, that’s their entire strategy! Why not do everything you can possibly to make that as difficult as possible?!
I do not think that the Pacers are out of it. I think that Frank and the guys understand that their backs are against the wall and that adjustments need to be made. Because, if they don’t; and they get eliminated by the Hawks, this will go down as the biggest meltdown in NBA history. Any team that goes through a slump will have fans saying “God I hope they don’t pull a Pacers.” Let’s hope they can band together and pull through; or else the once darling 2013-2014 Indiana Pacers will become an infamous black-eye in the annals of NBA history.