This article puts Danny and Mike's quotes in context.
A playoff team in name only
Pacers, 7th in East at 14-20, aren't happy with their record
PHILADELPHIA -- At this point, tonight's game between the Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers is between two playoff teams.
The 14-20 Pacers are seventh in the Eastern Conference standings and the 15-22 Sixers are eighth, the final playoff spot.
In part, that's an indictment on the East, which had six teams at least six games above .500 entering Monday night and a bottom nine all at least six games below .500.
It also means, despite nearly a month of struggles, the Pacers are playing games that could be critical at the end of the season.
"I guess it's a good-news bad-news thing, but we're really not happy with where we're at," Pacers guard Mike Dunleavy said. "You almost don't even look at the standings. The most important thing for us is to start playing better.
"The winning, the seeding, the playoffs will take care of themselves. Right now, it doesn't really matter that we're in the seven spot because if we keep playing the way we do, we won't be for long."
The Pacers have gone 5-13 their past 18 games, sliding into a pack of six teams vying for the East's final two playoff spots.
Indiana, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Toronto and Detroit entered Monday within three games of each other.
Pacers coach Jim O'Brien isn't pleased with the team's position.
"We're a little angry to be 14-20," he said. "We should be a better team and that's my job; 14-20 is not very good. It doesn't matter whether we're seventh in the East or 10th. We are not playing the type of basketball that allows us to be anything other than 14-20."
The Pacers have been good offensively and poor defensively the past few years, but the opposite has been true recently. The offense needs fixing.
The Pacers are third in the NBA in field-goal defense (43 percent) this season, but they are averaging just 92 points over the past 10 games, fifth worst in the NBA in that span.
The players have become irritated with the situation.
"Guys are not happy. There's some frustration, and there's also some looking for answers," Dunleavy said. "Quite frankly, some guys just don't feel like we have this thing figured out, especially on offense."
So what isn't working?
"A lot of it is rhythm and timing and making smart basketball plays," Dunleavy said. "We have a pretty simple offense. It's based on reads, hitting the open guy. We struggle with that. Until that changes, we're probably going to struggle on offense."
The Pacers spent more than two hours on the practice court Monday, the entire time dedicated to offense.
The issue isn't simply missing shots. The Pacers haven't been getting quick shots and, as a result, have fewer possessions and more shots taken as the shot clock runs down.
Danny Granger, Indiana's leading scorer, said players have worried about the offense for several weeks.
"Teams are scouting us, taking away a lot of our set plays," he said. "We like to do our quick motion, which is a little bit unpredictable and easier to score out of, but with that offense, we really have to have an understanding of what's going on, and I don't think we have that yet."
If they don't get it soon, seventh in the East may begin slipping away.
To me it looks like the players' really believe that the team really isn't getting the offense and not blaming the coach. And pigs must be flying because Jim took some blame for the losing. It seems the player's really are trying to follow his offense (even though it clearly isn't working). But frustration is setting in and the ship needs to get turned around soon before the team loses any confidence they still have.