It started with Paul George and David West, two of the Indiana Pacers’ veteran leaders, crowding inside the small visiting coach’s locker room.
With their ankles still taped and their uniforms still on, there was an impromptu meeting taking place with hushed tones and grim faces. Sitting with his shoulder in ice at his locker, George Hill noticed and went over and slipped into the room. Then Roy Hibbert got up from his seat and stuck his head in.
Ten minutes passed, then 15. The team with the NBA’s best record is in its first legitimate funk of the year and it’s shaking the players up.
The Houston Rockets, the team that has been the league’s best since Jan. 1, ripped the Pacers 112-86 on Friday night. It was the Rockets’ second slaying of an Eastern Conference juggernaut at home this week after their three-point win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday.
The Pacers have now lost three in a row for the first time all season and fallen back into a tie with the Heat in the loss column for the best record. But the chase for that top seed, which has been a Pacers priority all season, was not on their minds as midnight passed in that quiet locker room.
“We haven’t talked about the [No. 1 seed] in awhile,” Hibbert said. “We just need to win games at this point. Something has got to change. Something is going to be addressed.” ESPN
The noise you hear is the Pacers’ fans panic button. Pacer players were outspoken about how important the number one seed would be for the playoffs. It is unclear what is causing them to careen off a cliff, but back to back blowout losses for the team with the best record in the NBA is never a good sign for the team’s short-term future. The most obvious problem is their below average offense, and inconsistent point guard play. Roy Hibbert is an offensive juggernaut against the height-challenged Heat, but a very inconsistent scorer versus other opponents. There’s a lot of little stuff to nitpick but they might be okay by the time we hit the playoffs, albeit without the first seed.
Credit should be given to the red-hot who are Rockets are 22-6 since the start of the year. They have beat the Heat and Pacers in back to back games so we can not dismiss this team as a blip in the championship picture. – AL
Featured image courtesy of Josh Hallett/Flickr.