Pacers Need To Step It Up In Second Half

Tony DonohueContributor IFebruary 16, 2009

The All Star Break could not have come sooner for the Indiana Pacers. A 21-33 record tells the story—last in the Central Division and four and a half games out of the 8th and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Something has to change.

Let's start with close games. The Pacers are 8-12 in games that have been decided by four points or less. They have been known to build big leads in the second and third quarters, only to slip in the fourth.

Back in November, the Pacers lead the 76ers by as many as twenty early on, only to lose the lead and the game—being outscored by Philadelphia 81-54 in the final three quarters.

Building big leads is one thing, keeping them is another.  This translates into overtime as well, where the Pacers are 1-4.

The Pacers are the only team in the league to knock off the top four teams—the Lakers, Cavaliers, Magic and Celtics. All four wins came at Conseco Field House.

Unfortunately, the Pacers struggle with teams that they should beat.

Losses on the road to Memphis, Dallas, Golden State, and the Lakers were all winnable ball games. They need to improve on their 6-22 record on the road. Beat the teams that you should beat—the Wizards, Bucks, and Bobcats are prime examples.

Coming back has been a big problem for the Pacers as well, as they are 4-23 if trailing after three quarters, and 1-14 on the road if trailing at half. Four quarters has to be played night in and night out if the Pacers want to win games down the stretch.

The bench production is horrible. The bench has been plagued with injuries all season and they lack leadership and execution.

The leading scorer off the bench is Marquis Daniels who averages 13.3 points per game, most of these points coming when Mike Dunleavy was injured. Jeff Foster, Rasho Nesterovic, and Stephen Graham need to be more productive when the starting five take a rest.

Danny Granger, a first-time All Star, is the leader of this team. He is having a career year averaging 25.4 a game.

He has been outstanding and hopefully his teammates follow suit. T.J. Ford is also having a coming out party, averaging 15.1 points a game, which is a career high.

Troy Murphy, the double-double machine, cannot afford to let up. Double-Doubles are great, but keeping it consistent is even better. He can't afford to let down in scoring.

This Pacer squard can make the playoffs, and I think they will.

Finish games down the stretch, play fundamental basketball avoiding turnovers, play hard on both ends of the court, stay healthy, and win close games.

They can be prime candidates to pull off an upset in the Eastern Conference playoffs.