Per Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star, West didn't mince words when explaining where the Pacers are right now:
Asked David West if this loss was rock bottom. "Yeah, I would say" "We can't get - I don't know what else we can do."— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) March 30, 2014
On balance, Indy is still the East's No. 1 seed. But that fact (and most of the Pacers' excellent overall numbers this year) traces back to the early-season dominance we saw from Paul George and Co. Remember, this bunch lost back-to-back games just once in the season's first four months while posting the league's top defensive rating.
Since March 1, the Pacers have suffered a pair of two-game losing streaks and a four-game slide. Their formerly unrivaled defensive rating has been just fifth-best in the NBA since March 1, which doesn't sound so bad until you realize their offensive rating is 29th—ahead of only the Philadelphia 76ers, per NBA.com.
ESPN's Brian Windhorst put the offensive disaster another way:
Pacers offense is in crisis, they failed to crack 80 for 4th time in 5 games today. They scored 84 in 1-point win over Heat.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) March 30, 2014
And head coach Frank Vogel is as down on the team as West, per the Pacers' official Twitter feed:
More from Coach Vogel, "I think we're playing against ourselves right now... We're not close to where we need to be."— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) March 30, 2014
Indiana finishes March with a record of 8-9, and with the statistics laid out above, it's hard to argue with West about his team's circumstances.
As is the case with any slide like this, there's no singular cause. The absence of Danny Granger has turned out to be a bigger problem than anticipated, and it's possible Indiana simply doesn't have the locker room chemistry it once did. Plus Roy Hibbert and George have come back to Earth on offense, and the bench has failed to sustain its early-season pace.
At the same time, the numbers these Pacers accumulated for the first four months of the year still count. Somewhere inside this group, that dominant defense and half-decent offense exists. It's just hiding behind some late-season malaise, predictable offensive regression and, perhaps, a little bit of panic.
West is absolutely right about the Pacers hitting rock bottom, but there's nowhere to go but "up" now. Indy's struggles can't be brushed aside, but anyone proclaiming them unfit to contend is ignoring almost two years of evidence to the contrary.