Late last night, following Indiana's 74-72 loss to the hapless Raptors, I looked up the word ‘pathetic’ in the online Thesaurus. Here are some of the words that appeared: deplorable, distressing, feeble, inadequate, lamentable, meager, miserable, paltry, pitiful, poor, putrid, sorry, woeful, worthless, and wretched.
I’m going to try to use every one of those synonyms to describe the Pacers’ deplorable effort versus Toronto, and their miserable start to the season.
To put last night’s loss in perspective, the Pacers lost to a one-win Raptors team that was coming off a triple overtime loss the night before (in another country), and was down two starters. They lost to a team that scored five meager fourth quarter points - the second-lowest total in the shot clock era - while shooting a wretched 1-for-15 from the field. Toronto was practically handing the Pacers that game, and they couldn’t take advantage.
How does that happen?
This poor start can’t just be blamed on not having leading scorer Danny Granger. The Pacers’ feeble offense has been pitiful this season, ranking 28th in the NBA in scoring (88.1 ppg), 29th in FG% (40.1%), 23rd in 3-pt FG% (30.5%), 30th in assists (16.8 apg), and 24th in turnovers (15.9 tpg). Paul George has been an inadequate replacement, lacking the confidence to step up in Granger’s absence. After cashing in on a $58M deal in the offseason, Roy Hibbert has been M.I.A., contributing a paltry 8.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game while shooting a lamentable 38%. The bench play from the new acquisitions like Gerald Green (9.1 ppg, 29% 3-pt FG, 8.3 PER) has been distressing, and D.J. Augustin (3.1 ppg, 21% FG, 2.4 apg) has been especially putrid. Those second-unit struggles are magnified when you look at some of the guys the Pacers’ dealt (Darren Collison), and/or didn’t open up their wallets for (O.J. Mayo) this past summer.
Big Roy hasn't lived up to his big contract yet this season
They’ve defended at a high level (4th in scoring defense, 2nd in opponents FG%), but when you’re struggling to crack 85 points per game on the other end, that defensive effort is worthless. Four of Indiana’s five losses have come by a grand total of just eight points. If not for a handful of sorry displays on offense, the Pacers could very easily be 7-1 right now instead of a woeful 3-5.
Thought this start has been brutal, I'm not panicking yet. There is still time to turn this around, as seventy-four games and about five months remain in the Pacers' regular season. George Hill’s play has been encouraging, and David West’s vocal leadership won’t allow this ship to completely sink. I can’t imagine that Hibbert will continue to struggle so mightily, and I’m still hopeful that George steps up and some of the new pieces are able to gel over time. With the way Indiana is defending, if the offense finally figures things out, this team will be a formidable one. But, there’s no sugarcoating this start to the season for the Blue and Gold.
2012-13 was the most heavily anticipated Pacers’ season in nearly a decade, but they haven’t come close to living up to their preseason billing. So far, the Pacers’ have been downright pathetic.