Sweatin' Bullets: Pacers survive the first round
By JONATHAN AUPING
The Pacers made it out of the first round! It's been a rough two weeks for Pacer Nation. They almost lost to a team that would have been totally cool with not even making the playoffs.
Yet, advancing in the postseason is still an achievement that only eight NBA teams can enjoy every year, and sometimes you just have to sit back, let out a sigh of relief and laugh a little. So I decided to stop in and provide the Sweatin' Bullets segment that I used to write back when I was a regular contributor to 8p9s. You might remember the drill; random jokes, theories and observations that may have otherwise never made print.Ahh the classic "Struggle to get past the Hawks because Chris Copeland isn't getting enough playing time" obstacle. I'm pretty sure MJ had to go through this before the Bulls finally broke through.
Everyone has tried to explain the Pacers' "collapse" one way or another before ultimately deciding it's inexplicable. So let me give it a shot. Imagine trying to think of the most simplistic and general one or two-word adjectives to describe what each starter brought to the table back when things were going really well for the Pacers.
Here's what I might have offered: George Hill: Solid. Paul George: Young. Lance Stephenson: Confident. David West: Stretch-four. Roy Hibbert: Huge. Do any of those words really move the needle all that much for you? Now, I'll fully admit that there are many other words to describe how talented George is and words like "leader" and "toughness" would also suit West, but the point is that even when George was playing much better offensively, a percentage of why we were so impressed is because of how good he could potentially become and West's toughness can be over appreciated when he is just yelling about fouls he thinks he shouldn't have been called four. These five words go a long way of summing up what made the Pacers so good early in the season, but do those five words make your team great? The words "dominant," "unstoppable" and "resilient" are certainly missing.
That bullet point was way too long. Also, the Pacers' collapse is inexplicable.
We've never really broached the theory that Hibbert bet on the Hawks, but when Adam Silver has some time I'd like him to investigate. It only took Hibbert 35 seconds to give the ball to Jeff Teague.
Then Hibbert went on to completely dominate the game with 13 points and 7 rebounds. I mean, we're talking Robin Lopez numbers. If Hibbert keeps this up, maybe the Pacers should consider locking him up with a modest, but fair contract extension. Oh, wait ...
"My last year in the league I got nine points...Roy Hibbert is playing well, but I'm not going to go crazy over nine points." Charles Barkley stays bursting bubbles.
Lance averaged 14.8 points per game through six games and Kyle Korver averaged 12.5. In Game 7 they both had 19 points. Then again, Stephenson had 14 rebounds in game seven. That's the difference. He does it all ... or does something stupid trying.
Vogel saying his team "is not built for" matching the Hawks' small lineup is basically like saying "we have this one thing that we do and if it doesn't work we're screwed."
People make so much of Hibbert's verticality on defense (rightfully so), but completely disregard his lack of horizonta-cality. His lack of mobility is just brutal sometimes.
The Hawks shooting all those threes wasn't a sabermetrics thing. It was an "unless George or Stephenson rebounds the miss perfectly in stride these guys won't punish us for missing them" thing.
Then again, you have to make some of the threes for that theory to work because, you know, you have to score points to win the game. Plus, if you miss 33 threes in one game you're giving Stephenson and George a lot of opportunities to rebound in stride and punish you.
Seconds before Lance's amazing bounce pass to George Hill in the third quarter he skipped a little just to make sure you knew he was going to do something really cool. At a certain point someone will have to decide if he should be called "Dance Stephenson" or "Lance Lance Revolution."
I don't even think the crowds know if their cheers at Hibbert are sarcastic or sincere half the time.
Ian Mahinmi blocked Jeff Teague so bad that, somewhere in Chicago, Marquis Teague fell down. The whole family tree was rattled.
It's pretty admirable that Lance didn't let his last name being spelled differently than Deshawn Stevenson's last name stop him from trying to match his level of craziness.
You could build a giant house for the Pacers' early season expectations to live in with all the bricks the Hawks shot in the third quarter.
The Hawks still scored more points than the Pacers in the third quarter despite missing approximately 157 shots. This makes no sense. It was the only quarter they outscored Indiana. But they missed a bajillion shots. I can't figure it out.
Maybe nearly losing to the Atlanta Hawks was a culmination of the Pacers' 2014 collapse. The key word here is nearly. You know what's crazy? They could actually turn this thing around. Washington's big men are not 3-point shooters. Nene and Marcin Gortat are the kind of guys Hibbert is supposed to bang with. There will no longer be the context of a "bad matchup" stylistically. He will go head to head with Gortat and if he gets outplayed then he's lost just about as much value as a player can lose midseason.
Guys, Nene and David West are likely going to guard each other for AT LEAST four games. Start watching those Godzilla previews more closely because that kind of damage will be what it looks like. Adam Silver is going to be running around like Bryan Cranston trying to protect us all.
John Wall is faster than Jeff Teague. So...yikes.
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