Losing to the streaking New York Knicks is rock bottom for the Indiana Pacers.
That is not a misprint.
The Eastern Conference-leading, second-best-in-the-NBA Pacers are treating their Wednesday night loss at Madison Square Garden as a harbinger of doom and gloom.
Following their 92-86 loss, the Pacers, starting with Paul George, issued a steady stream of introspective and self-degrading comments, per Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star:
(The Knicks) switch almost everything on the floor. They just take you out of stuff and we haven't grown our I.Q. as a team into improvising when teams try to throw in little wrenches into our offense and that's where we got to grow offensively.
I say that because at this point of the season everybody knows what we're running, so this is the point where we've got to be able to play at a higher pace and higher I.Q. as a team to where we can beat teams to whatever style that they're playing.
To be clear, this was George, questioning the intelligence of his team.
And this is David West, calling them selfish.
"We just didn't move (the ball)," he said. "We didn't play team ball at all."
Indeed, the Pacers struggled to move the ball, registering just 12 assists, which is more than eight below their already unimpressive season average (20.3).
Scoring in general, as George noted, was an issue. Though the Pacers aren't known for their offense, they were facing the league's sixth-worst defensive team. Yet they couldn't even crack 90 points.
As has become the norm, Indiana received 13 total points from its bench. Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson combined for 41 points on 16-of-26 shooting, but they were complemented by George's 4-of-17 performance from the floor.
Defensively, the Pacers did their job, holding the Knicks to 39 percent shooting, including a beggarly 4-of-17 showing from beyond the arc. But their offense was so bad, the Knicks won a game in which they hit under five three-pointers for just the second time all season.
"This is sad, you know," Hibbert said afterward.
It's also somewhat typical.
The Pacers haven't been the Pacers of late. They are just 4-5 in their last nine games and have been struggling to put away inferior opponents since the end of February.
"In the first half we tried to do it ourselves and only had two assists," Pacers coach Frank Vogel explained, per the Associated Press (via FOX Sports). "In the second half we played much better. Shared the basketball better, we screened better, but we fell short."
Indiana could not be falling short at a more inopportune time.
With the Miami Heat battling fits of disinterest and injuries, the Pacers should be putting distance between themselves and the reigning champs. Instead, they're clinging to a three-game lead and in danger of losing the top spot their flag has been staked in all season.
"We got to figure it out," Hibbert deadpanned, per Buckner.
Yes, they do, preferably before the Heat figure it out. And most definitely before the playoffs begin and losses become the difference between advancement and an early exit.