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Indiana, meanwhile, is closer to sleeper territory than anyone else in the vicinity, inconsistent as the Pacers remain. Their 17-16 record as of Friday morning doesn't look bad at all when you consider that they've played 19 road games and 10 back-to-backs already, but Jermaine O'Neal sounded less than optimistic when he shared this pearl Thursday night:
"We've had a lot of games this year where we've controlled the game all the way up until the fourth and then lose our damn mind. Why? ... We get up 10 points and we just go ballistic. Sit down and get some tape. Every time we hit a 10-point margin, we go ballistic. I can't understand it for the life of me." Jamaal Tinsley's decision-making, I'd say, has something to do with it, but I'd still put the O'Neal-Al Harrington-Danny Granger Pacers, with Rick Carlisle at the controls, ahead of the field.
"That's what's pissing me off," Jermaine O'Neal steamed. "We just need to play consistent basketball and we got the East."
Also from the same article:
"If I can't take this team to another level, then I truthfully believe that we should go our separate ways at the end of the season." Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal, clearly frustrated by the Pacers' up-and-down play in a 17-16 start, went on to reveal that he badly wants to stay a Pacer, telling Reggie Miller recently that he doesn't want to leave until he wins the championship that eluded Miller's Pacers, but O'Neal also disclosed that he has an agreement with management to "talk at the end of the season" and determine if a change is best for both parties.
O'Neal, on this scorecard, looks like the least of Indiana's problems, playing the best defense of his life. Inconsistent play at the point, as referenced in Box 1, remains the Pacers' foremost trouble spot. Yet O'Neal acknowledges that he's "going to take the blame" for any struggles and "rightfully so."