Indiana Pacers: Making Sense of a Wild Day in Pacerland
Wednesday night could be classified as a "roller coaster" for the Pacers and their fans, but that would simply be up's and down's.
I would call Wednesday more like being chased by rabid dogs, climbing a tree for a temporary escape, only to fall asleep sitting on a branch and falling back to the dogs.
Wednesday started with terrible news for the Pacers. It was learned this morning that Danny Granger has received an injection in his knee to treat left patellar tendinosis and will be out for up to three months.
This was obviously horrible news, as Granger, who has been their leading scorer for the past few seasons, has become a very good defensive player, and, along with David West, is the dominant personality on the court for the Pacers.
Pacers fans, the team and the media all began to lower expectations for the Pacers almost immediately after hearing the Granger news.
Later in the day, Mike Wells of the Indy Star tweeted that the Pacers had already reached out to the agent of Mickael Pietrus. This may not be the cure for all that ails the Pacers, but it does add some initiative by the front office to remedy the loss of Granger.
After all of that news, there was still a game to be played.
The Pacers played a strange first half against Atlanta, with the starters, especially West, looking very good, and the bench, once again, looking very bad.
This was followed by an explosive third quarter, led by the aggressive play of Lance Stephenson and George Hill, that saw the Pacers open up a double-digit lead on the home Hawks.
This stretch of basketball, which resulted in an 18-0 run, was the best the Pacers had looked all year, by far. They were playing aggressive defense, moving the ball for good shots and actually hitting those shots. Perhaps, most importantly, they had a swagger back that has been lacking all year.
The aggressive play led to a 14-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Then the wheels came off.
The Pacers only scored 9 points in the fourth, were beaten on seemingly every hustle play, were confused by a zone defense (again) and saw their lead evaporate. Atlanta ended up winning the game with a 24-9 fourth quarter.
It was a strange day and night for the Pacers. It went from really bad, to encouraging, to heartbreaking in a couple-of-hours span.
Despite the gloom and doom, there is some good news to go with the bad.
The bad news is obvious: Granger is out until probably February, and even then, it will take some time to get back to full strength. The Pacers blew a lead in what would have been a very nice road win. The Pacers are under .500 for the first time since before the lockout. D.J. Augustin, Ian Mahinmi, Gerald Green and Sam Young continue to be, to put it kindly, ineffective. Roy Hibbert and Paul George do not look like a duo ready to lead a playoff team.
Will the Pacers still make the playoffs, and if so, as a top four seed?
That is a lot of bad news.
The good news, however, centers on their play for about 44 of the 48 minutes tonight. West looks great. Hill is playing better every game and may actually be worth the contract he was given. Lance Stephenson played very well at times and continues to probably be the fifth best player for the Pacers this season.
OK, that may be all of the good news. But at least it's something.
A win in Minnesota on Friday, against a banged-up-but-playing-well Timberwolves team would put the Pacers at 3-3, which considering they will have played five of the six on the road, isn't terrible. The problem is that many expected, or hoped, the Pacers would build on last season and be a legitimate contender in the East.
There is a lot of work to be done for the Blue and Gold.
One thing is certain after this wild day, Frank Vogel has his work cut out for him.
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