San Antonio Spurs @ Indiana PacersBankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, ID
March 31, 2014, 6:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW/NBATV - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
Forgive me for going all Rust Cohle on you guys, but Monday night's matchup between the Spurs and Pacers is not real. It's an illusion. It's a figment of an imagination created by time and expectations, existing outside of our current reality.
Don't be distracted by the flurry of narratives accompanying the game; ones that will undoubtedly and misleadingly call this a meeting between the NBA's finest. Sure the Spurs and Pacers both have the best records in their respective conferences and are looking to hold on to their number one seed for the playoffs, but this Indiana squad is anything but fine at this point. If the Pacers make the run that everybody has predicted them to make the entire season, they won't be the same team the Spurs will face on Monday night.
The Pacers are currently losers of five of their last seven games, and nine of their last 15. More surprising than seeing what used to be a very competitive and dominant Pacers team drop so many games is realizing their defense has actually been pretty stellar throughout that span of losses. Over their previous seven games, Frank Vogel's squad has only allowed 88.4 points per game. What's been the problem is their offense. Over their last seven games, the Pacers are putting up 80 points per game, and have scored 79 points or less four games out of their last five. Their latest loss came yesterday to the Cleveland Cavaliers who completely dominated them. The score was 90-76, and yet the game seemed even more one-sided than the score let on.
Indiana may be playing victims to their own lofty goals. Losing to the Heat in Game 7 of last year's Eastern Conference Finals really set the tone for their 2013-14 campaign. They seemingly devoted all their energy to exacting revenge against Miami, proving they were the best team in the East. Because of how weak the East was this year, the Pacers were able to coast through all of the inept squads and maintain their focus on Miami earlier in the season. Now, it's proving difficult for this talented squad to get focused on any team that isn't the Heat. In their last five games, four losses have come at the hands of the Grizzlies, Bulls, Wizards, and Cavs. Who was their one win against? The Heat.
The first step to fixing a problem is admitting there's one in the first place, and the Pacers' locker room is definitely owning up to their flawed nature. After the loss to the Cavs, Lance Stephenson was quoted saying "I'm lost right now. I don't know." When asked about whether this was rock bottom for Indiana or not, David West said "Yeah, I would say." He added, "I don't know what else we can do."
Just from hearing what the players on the team have to say, the problem is going deeper than just poor play. This is a team that it utterly confused, bewildered, and baffled by what they and their teammates have put out on the floor. Even Frank Vogel knows the problems facing the Pacers are internal, saying "We are playing against ourselves." Right now it's hard to imagine a team that's hitting rock bottom at the end of March holding up the Larry Obrien trophy just a couple months later.
Sadly for Indiana, not only are they playing against themselves tonight, they'll be playing against the Spurs. One squad is trying to remember what it's like to win, while the other can't recall what it's like to lose.
The winning streak has to be mentioned, but merely because it exists in our world only and not the players'. I don't think it has any meaning, merit, or long-term significance to this team. Even as impressive as this season has been with all of the various maladies that inflicted the Spurs, I don't think this squad will look back on the winning streak with pride without having championship rings on their fingers too. That's what Popovich has taught his team and us as fans. The Spurs go for the franchise record of most consecutive games won tonight, but let's remember San Antonio's second season hasn't even begun yet.
It's unclear, and probably a game-time decision, on whether Danny Green will be in the lineup tonight. He's still nursing an injured foot, but was able practice before the Pelicans game Saturday night.
The Pacers are a very tough and skilled basketball team, but the way both teams are playing right now, it's hard to not pick the Spurs in this matchup. They are in a freakishly elite zone where they are just picking apart defenses and infuriating opposing coaches. Indiana should never be taken lightly, but this is not a mentally right Indiana team.
Key Bench Players
The perspective of Pacers fans can be found here: Indy Cornrows
Game Prediction: Spurs by 6
Line in Vegas: Spurs by 3.5
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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