INDIANAPOLIS- The Indiana Pacers are not who we thought they were—but you knew that by now, right? If you didn’t, the Miami Heat reminded you not one, not two, but three years in-a-row and pending anything catastrophic, the Heat’s big three will likely re-sign to guarantee that they’ll be there to remind Indiana, again, for many more years to come.
The Pacers have playoff experience, but so do the Atlanta Hawks and value of such experience is only measured in mid-June—did you get there or not? While the Pacers have experienced regular season success, it’s obvious they don’t know how to handle it as a team and individually. The Pacers have the talent, but they don’t know how to utilize it to the fullest of it’s potential—there’s a reason why Miami’s role players are dangerous and the Pacers’ are missing in action. The Pacers have the maturity, but they lack the mental toughness. The Pacers have the desire, but more often than not, they’ve lacked the heart. And, as long as those big three due in fact stay in Miami, it’s very likely the Pacers will have the pieces in place, yet again, but fall short, once more.
I’m not trying to look back at the yearbook and tell everybody “I told you so” 10 years later. I, too, had my beliefs that this Pacers team was capable of contending for an NBA championship. But as the year went on, it became evident through the off-court rumors, interesting front office decisions and on-court calamity that Indiana was a big, rolling ball of false hope.
It’s not really that asinine to say when every game since the end of January has been head scratching equally as much as it has been troublesome to watch in both victories and defeat. But there is no excuse. When you come out before the season starts and start yapping about getting the No.1 seed, you better make damn sure you don’t throw home court advantage away and Indiana gave it away in round one, round two and round three.
So what is there to blame? Don’t start telling me about Danny Granger leaving this team. Please, just stop. Don’t point a finger at Andrew Bynum or Evan Turner. It’s not like the Pacers won the last to NBA championships and then made those acquisitions, causing locker room rumbles and mid-practice fights. Those two weren’t here long enough to make that kind of impact and considering the Pacers just exited stage left, again, it’s hard to believe any of those things had anything to do with Indiana drawing the short stick for the third straight year.
FrankVogel isn’t the scape goat either. There are flaws in his offensive style and lineup decisions, but there is nothing about a coach who takes a team, and one with so many issues and obstacles, to the conference finals two years in-a-row that serves fire-able offense.
Go back to the basics, or, watch film from game six of the 2012 conference semi-finals, game seven of the 2013 conference finals and Friday night’s game six in this season’s conference finals; the Pacers don’t have the grit to grind it out against a superior team—one with an impeccable playoff run still intact—to get over the hump.
When you are facing elimination as a young team it’s understandable when you get dropped in game six. When you take the Heat to seven games in a taxing series that required everything you had left in the tank in game six just to get to game seven, it’s obvious you don’t necessarily belong in the same conversation, yet, but are well on your way.
So when you are down 3-1 to that same team and find a way to push the series to game six, don’t get ran out of the gym. If there was one thing, one, that you absolutely could not do on Friday night, it was plain-and-simple, clear as day; don’t get embarrassed.
Indiana fooled us all when they led 9-2 in the first quarter. From there it was evident, though, mental toughness, desire, and most of all, their heart was nowhere to be found. Miami outscored the Pacers 58-25 on the way to a 26 point halftime lead.
The Pacers hung their heads; they walked off the floor and looked absolutely miserable. I don’t understand how you can play like two completely different teams in one series alone. But somehow, the Pacers did it in round one, round two and round three. How do you feel like “little brother”, walk around with a chip on your shoulder, circle Miami on your schedule and make it a point to take them out but when you get the opportunity you stick your tail between your legs and wet yourself on national television?
They never showed up. Despite Miami making it to their fourth straight Finals appearance, you don’t make excuses about who you’re playing and refer to this team as the “Bulls of our era, the Michael Jordan of our era” as some sort of take-it-or-leave-it-but-that’s-my-story-excuse.
You never showed up, Frank. Don’t use the Bulls and Jordan comparison to slide out the back door. The Pacers’ window just slammed shut on their fingers for the second straight year. David West’s comment after Friday night’s game six loss answer every question; “We can’t beat them.” Miami owns Indiana mentally and because of that, the Pacers, a bigger, more physical team, look like a terrified Chihuahua trembling next to a Great Dane showing it’s teeth.
The most troubling part to ponder is what if Derrick Rose wasn’t injured, again, this season? Would the Chicago Bulls be in the mix? More than likely, if Rose was never injured at all, Indiana would have had an even rougher road to get this far twice, let alone once. What if the New York Knicks played to the same capacity this season as they did last season?
The truth is the Pacers play in an Eastern conference where the best player in the world is in their way, the third seed would be the Western Conference’s eighth seed and two of the East’s best from the last few years, New York and Chicago respectively, haven’t been in the conversation. It’s completely acceptable and logical to wonder, were the Pacers ever really good enough to contend for an NBA title or did they just benefit from circumstance?
Then again, does it really matter? It’s hard for the Pacers to beat the Heat, or anyone else for that matter, when they’re too busy beating themselves.
Corey Elliot is a Senior Writer at the Indiana Sports Report and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. He is recognized as accredited member of the media by the Pacers and has full media access. Click here to follow Corey and ISR on Twitter.
Corey Elliot is a Beat Writer at the Indiana Sports Report and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. He is recognized as accredited member of the media by the Pacers and has full media access.
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