Let’s get the ugly stuff out of the way first. The disaster that was the Pacers’ month of March can actually be extrapolated to a larger sample size. In the 30 games Indiana played after the All Star Break, coach Frank Vogel’s outfit scored five points per game less than it did in the first half, gave up more than five more points a game on defense – including yielding 100 or more points in 10 games, just one less time they did pre-break in 22 fewer games – and generally had a dark cloud hover above them like they were the NBA’s version of a depressing comic-strip character.
But you know what? None of that matters now. The clichest of clichés in the NBA is to state that the playoffs are a new season – but that’s just what the postseason represents. Do people remember that Indiana went 2-5 last April and was tied two games apiece against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs? No, people remember the Pacers using every ounce of blue collar and gold swagger they had to push the Big 3-led Miami Heat to a Game 7 in the East Finals.
Now, there are real concerns. So let’s dive in and see if Indiana is in trouble against a team that probably would rather be in the draft lottery…
THE PACERS WIN THE SERIES IF…
Basic offensive adjustments are made
I don’t necessarily expect Indiana to regain its world-beater level from earlier this season, but baby steps – the same ones the unit took in the win over Oklahoma City Sunday – would go a long way toward a return to normalcy. Forget stats for a second; the Pacers need to do a few simple things offensively:
1. Space the floor. Watch this team enough and it’s easy to notice that Indiana seems to get in its own way on a good number of its offensive sets. A small tweak to that would be to adhere to better floor positioning. Too many times guys are standing too close either to another player or the basket, clogging up passing and driving lanes. A recent Grantland article noted that Paul George and Lance Stephenson are guilty of randomly standing just inside the 3-point line on a regular basis. That’s simply lazy court awareness.