The Indiana Pacers have been on cruise control for most of the season, as they floated their way to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
However, they're currently in a two-game losing streak, something that they haven't seen in over a month. Both of these games ended in similar fashion, as the Pacers just weren't able to keep up with the opposing teams' late-game runs in the fourth quarter.
This slideshow will evaluate the underlying reasons behind their losses and how they could adjust.
It seems that every time one Pacer player has a great game, another Pacer has a mediocre one.
George Hill, who has been phenomenal against the Los Angeles Lakers in both meetings this season, was hot throughout the game and led the Pacers with 27 points on 11-for-19 shooting from the field.
At the same time, however, both David West and Paul George had little impact in that game. West scored eight points in 38 minutes of playing time, and George scored 20, but on 6-for-20 from the field.
Furthermore, Roy Hibbert has been struggling with his offensive production throughout most of the season, so his seven points on 3-for-12 shooting shouldn't be surprising anymore.
In the loss against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Pacers over-relied on Hibbert, primarily because he should theoretically have a matchup advantage against any of the Sixers' bigs. He scored 25 points and grabbed 10 boards but went an abysmal 9-for-26 from the field.
One of the factors behind the inconsistent production is usage rate. Hibbert saw his usage rate skyrocket from 23.6 percent against the Lakers, to 35.9 percent against the Sixers (per Basketball Reference).
Although it's great to take advantage of match-ups, it has led to poor performances from other members of the teams. The Pacers could try sharing the ball more frequently early on in the game, so everyone could establish the feel of the offense.
Poor shooting is almost always a result of shot selection, but that's not really the case in this situation.
Although Paul George is quickly blossoming into one of the premier swingmen in the league, he's been struggling with his shot lately. In the past two games, he's gone just 12-for-37, and he's experienced his fair share of shooting woes throughout the season.
Furthermore, players like George Hill and Roy Hibbert have been shooting inconsistently since the start of the season. David West is probably the most consistent scorer on the team, but the Pacers will need more than just West if they want to make a long playoff run.
The shooting has been bad, but it's less about poor shot selection and more about the ball not going into the basket. Everyone on the team receives a large amount of good looks, but they just haven't been able to connect on most of them.
If the outside shot isn't falling, the team should try to move the ball inside more and open up driving lanes for perimeter players like Hill and George in order to get higher percentage looks.
In the two losses, the Pacers allowed the Lakers and Sixers to register an offensive efficiency of 100.8 and 110.7, respectively.
Although that may be average of a middle-of-the-pack team, that's not how the Pacers roll. They have been the best defensive team in the NBA for most of the season (per Hollinger's Team Stats), so playing mediocre defense is very uncharacteristic of this squad.
In the Sixers game in particular, the Pacers defense just got broken down by Jrue Holiday's playmaking abilities and Spencer Hawes' versatile offensive contributions.
The Pacers won't be matched up against the Sixers in the playoffs, since Philadelphia probably won't make them, but they will need to tighten up their defense against more non-conventional offenses.
Defense is mainly about effort and focus, and perhaps the Pacers just haven't had the motivation to do either of those recently. Once the playoffs approach, it's certain that the team will step up on both ends of the floor like they've been doing for most of the year.