The season is finally over for the Indiana Pacers after their first round loss to the Chicago Bulls, but these 5 games have revealed a lot about the team. For one, they aren’t the Memphis Grizzlies, who knocked off the top seeded Western Conference team San Antonio Spurs today. But then again, they weren’t the same Indiana Pacers that only won 37 games during the regular season and were expected to be spanked in 4 quick games by the Bulls.
The Pacers averaged 90.2 points and gave up 97.6 points per game to the Bulls, though if you discount game 5 where the Pacers were blown out 116-89, there was only a 2.5 point difference between the two teams on average. Not bad against a team that won 62 games during the regular season.
In the 5 games, the Pacers kept the Bulls to shooting 43.9%, 38.6%, 38.9%, 37.8% and 48.2%. Again, apart from the final game, and especially during the middle 3-game stretch, the Pacers did an exceptional job defensively on the Bulls, a team that averaged 46.2% during the regular season.
For the series, Danny Granger did unexpectedly well, averaging 21.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists, shooting 47.8% from the field — all improvements from his regular season numbers. Unfortunately, no one else could put numbers up on a regular basis. Tyler Hansbrough was the second top scorer with an 11.2 point average, and he only played one good game (game 1). Hibbert struggled most of the series and averaged 10.8 points and 6.4 rebounds.
Darren Collison played a pretty decent series even with the sprained ankle after game 3, but the performance didn’t really show in the stat sheet. He had 9.4 points and 4 assists per game. The same thing could be said for rookie Paul George, who did the best possible one-on-one defensive job on Derrick Rose anyone could have expected. George struggled offensively (6 points, 4 rebounds on 30.3% shooting, but he did have 1.4 steals and 2 blocks per game), but showed that he has the potential to be something special at both ends in the future.
What the series showed First and foremost, the Pacers showed that they aren’t good enough to win in the playoffs. Yes, they played the Bulls close in 4 games. Yes, they probably outplayed the Bulls in more quarters than the Bulls outplayed them. But they still lost 3 of the 4 games and got blown out in the last one. They exceeded expectations and played harder than we’ve ever seen them play, but they’re still not good enough, not talented enough. Not by a long shot. But they are on the right track.
Secondly, the series demonstrated that the Pacers can play solid defense if they put their mind to it. The Bulls aren’t the best offensive team in the league and they struggled to find their rhythm at times, but I like to think that the Pacers had something to do with that. But hopefully this series has proved to the Pacers themselves that they can and they should play defense every night, and if they do, they’ll win a lot more games.
Thirdly, the series showed that Danny Granger would make an exellent second option, or at least an A1 option, but not the main option. He’s not a guy that can create shots for himself, which means he will always struggle in crunch time. He’s a brilliant shooter, streaky at times, but undoubtedly the Pacers best scorer and player. The problem is, the Pacers probably won’t be able to land a better offensive player than Granger, so they’ll need to be creative this offseason. If they could say bring in someone like OJ Mayo (whom they nearly got) and/or Josh Smith, that could be enough.
Fourthly, what the Pacers lack most is a closer. Players like Derrick Rose don’t grow on trees, and no one on the Pacers at the moment appear to have what it takes. Granger has already shown he can’t do it. Hibbert’s too inconsistent and his mind isn’t in the right place most of the time. Collison has the heart and the will but not the needed size. Hansbrough has the same heart and will but not the skills or ability. AJ Price is the same but lacks what Collison and Hansbrough both lack. Paul George? Far too early to tell. But without that go-to guy, the Pacers will continue to throw away close games like they have done all season.
Lastly, Frank Vogel has shown that he can coach in this league. He got these players ready and believing in themselves, something Jim O’Brien couldn’t do in several years. Vogel did allow the Pacers to choke away leads in the dying minutes of the first 3 games, but that’s not entirely his fault. I say sign him, remove the interim tag and let him grow with this team — unless, of course, they can get a can’t miss coach.
That’s I’ve got time for for now. Coming up next, more on Larry Bird’s future and a player-by-player analysis.,