Pacers keep recent struggles in perspective
The Pacers Thursday practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse put an emphasis on sharing the basketball, with less one-on-one offense.
"We're not as committed to playing team ball as we have been," said Pacers forward David West. "It's biting us a little bit. We've just got to continue to push toward identifying ourselves as a group and not feel like we have to depend on one or two guys to do the bulk of the lifting around here."
The Pacers lost in New York Wednesday to the Knicks, 92-86. Pacers top scorer Paul George made just four of his 17 shots, scoring 17 points. His scoring average and shooting percentage, both from the field and three-point range, have dropped slightly since the All-Star break.
"It just seems like every game something different gets thrown at me," said George. "I just have to learn. I just have to go through these experiences and I'm going to come out on top."
The Pacers own 50 wins and still have the best record in the NBA's Eastern Conference (50-17). But since the All-Star break, the Pacers have not played with the same tough defense and sharp execution that characterized the great start to the season. The Pacers have consistently fallen behind by double-digit margins in the first half.
"Start the game off moving the ball and hopefully hit a couple shots," said Pacers center Roy Hibbert. "Defend at a high level. Sometimes shots don't go in, but we just have to move the ball."
Indiana is 10-6 since the All-Star break. All 10 wins came against teams with losing records. The Pacers have not beaten a team with a winning record since a home win over Portland February 7th.
"The right perspective is we're playing pretty well," said Pacers head coach Frank Vogel. "We have a really good team. Nobody needs to panic and go nuts. Just try to get better every day. Really it's about building habits that are going to help us win playoff games. That's the biggest thing that we're trying to get accomplished right now."
The Pacers have 14 games left in the regular season to build better habits. The next five games are against playoff caliber opponents with winning records. The Pacers host the Chicago Bulls Friday at 7:00 p.m. The Bulls (38-30) are 4th in the Eastern Conference standings despite losing star player Derrick Rose early in the season.
"They just have a lot of heart," said Hibbert. "They're a good team. Their core has been together for a while."
The Pacers face a back-to-back this weekend with a game in Memphis Saturday at 8:00 p.m.
Vogel said Thursday that multiple medical personnel are evaluating the results of an MRI on Andrew Bynum's knee and that Bynum has a great deal of swelling and will be out for "a little while'. Bynum has played in just two games for Indiana, but made a significant impact, averaging 11.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. The issue is how his chronically injured knees will respond after game action.