I think the biggest problem with this team currently is that they haven't figured out who they are yet. Over the course of their first 26 games, they played more like an uptempo team pushing the ball on nearly every possession, taking open shots and moving the ball fairly well. I expected alot of turnovers, and I expected they'd lose the rebounding battle on occasion because long jump shots usually means long rebounds. Still, I thought they'd do pretty good despite the early part of the season being more a period of learning and adjustments than a period where the team would run as smooth as a Swiss watch like the Pistons primary four players who have been together for atleast the last 4-yrs. But then came the more desperate T-Wolves (12/21) and the holes in the Pacers' concept of "team defense" over "individual defensive efforts" were made manifest. It was the most points they'd given up all season (to date). That's when I think the real breakdown began.
You see, I think that up 'til that point, the Pacers had a pretty good idea of who they wanted to be as a team. But that loss I believe hurt their psyching. If you saw their next game against the Wizards, you'll recall how they compensated on the defensive end to win the game. It was inspiring to see. After that game, I walked away thinking maybe, just maybe they'd figured some things out and would be on their way to begin separating themselves from the lower seeded teams. But then came the game that started them down this losing spiral - the Hawks, a team clearly on the rise and who like the T-Wolves were hungry for a win. The Pacers got out-played that day and have been getting outplayed ever since. I believe that from that point on they've tried to compensate for their defensive lapses by focusing more on the defensive end than players simply going out and playing their game.
So, now the question is, "Who Are the Indiana Pacers?"
- Are you an uptempo team? Or are they somewhere in the middle?
- Should they run the floor and push the tempo or should they slowly and methodically bring the ball up court and work the offense through set plays?
- Are they a perimeter/jump shooting team? A slashing team? A low-post scoring team? Or are they a combination of the three? And mind you there's nothing wrong with having all three facets of the game at your disposal. The trick is to implement all three in an efficient and effective manner.
- Are they a team who relies solely on team defense or will individual players step up and "body up" their man and NOT rely so heavily on the "help defense" to cover their mistakes?
- Are they a team who relies on the roar of the crowd to motivate them? (And considering the attendance problem at the Fieldhouse, I'd say they need to find another motivator quick if they're relying on the crowd.) Or can they find that motivation from within collectively to ignite their passions and will themselves to win even when all seems lost? Will they fight through adversity or circum to it?
These are the kinds of questions this team needs to answer before they can truly move forward.