NBA PM: Are the Indiana Pacers Done?
Three days ago, the Indiana Pacers had all of the momentum in their series against the Miami HEAT. Indiana was leading the Conference Semifinals, 2-1, and they had stolen home-court advantage away from Miami. The Pacers were in control and all of the pressure was on the HEAT.
Now, two games later, Indiana is facing elimination and no longer holds home-court advantage. That’s how quickly fortunes can change in the postseason. The Pacers are no longer in the driver’s seat and their season could end on Thursday.
To say that Indiana has struggled offensively is an understatement. In Game 5, Paul George was the Pacers’ leading scorer with just 11 points on 3-9 shooting. Indiana’s offense stalls for long periods of time, which is how Miami was able to build such a large lead in the third quarter of last night’s game.
“There are a lot of reasons why our offense didn’t click, but those are reasons we can fix,” Darren Collison said after the loss. “For whatever reason, we didn’t execute today. We usually do a good job of executing.”
Perhaps the biggest problem for the Pacers is that they don’t have an answer for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who have been absolutely dominant in the last two games. James and Wade have been doing whatever they want offensively, beating Indiana in their half-court offense as well as in transition.
In Game 4, James and Wade combined for 70 points, 27 rebounds, 15 assists, 4 blocks and 3 steals. In Game 5, the duo contributed 58 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
“They had LeBron James dancing with the ball, hitting tough shots and had D-Wade hitting and-ones,” Roy Hibbert said. “It’s very tough. They played like superstars tonight. We weren’t up to par. Our backs are against the wall going back to Indy and we’ve got to figure something out.”
“It’s going to be tough,” David West said. “We’re going to watch film tonight and tomorrow and make some adjustments. We just can’t allow those stretches. We have to be more precise. They’re doing a good job of forcing us into tough shots and then playing one-on-one basketball, which isn’t our strength.”
Injuries make matters even more difficult for Indiana. Danny Granger and West both left Game 5 with sprained ankles. While West’s sprain was mild, Granger injured his ankle twice during the game and was carted out of the arena. He may not be available for Game 6 in Miami. However, the forward says he’ll do whatever he can to take the floor.
“I have a history of recovering fast,” Granger said. “Tomorrow, it could feel a lot better. In two days when we play, I could be ready to go. All these injuries are different. We just have to take it day-to-day. My foot would have to fall off for me to not at least try to play. This is too important. It’s the playoffs. I’ll just take a bunch of pain medication and go out and lay it on the line.”
The Pacers will need everyone to lay it on the line if they want to extend their 2011-12 season. Even though their Game 5 loss was embarrassing, the team isn’t letting the loss affect them. Throughout the season, their motto has been “not too high, not too low” – they were overly excited after blowing out Miami earlier in the series and they aren’t overly worried now.
“We’ve been on the opposite end of this, being the aggressor with the blowout win,” George said. “This is one game. They don’t get two wins for a blowout.”
Now, one win will be enough to end their season, which is why they’ll need to put these past three days behind them and get back to their winning ways.
Hill Prepared for Free Agency: Jordan Hill’s emergence as a significant contributor for the Los Angeles Lakers was one of the biggest surprises of the 2012 postseason. Hill was dealt to the Lakers at the trade deadline, but spent his first month riding the bench.
It wasn’t until the final two games of the regular season that Hill was given an opportunity to play. Following a blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs on April 20, Lakers head coach Mike Brown knew he had to make some changes. He called Hill at 2 a.m. and told him that his minutes would be increasing because the team needed more rebounding and energy.
“I was surprised,” Hill said with a laugh. “When I first came in, it was definitely frustrating, not getting the opportunity to play after playing (in Houston). I tried to keep my composure and do what I had to do. Then I took advantage of my opportunity and fortunately it progressed.”
In the following game, Hill had 14 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks against the Oklahoma City Thunder. During the postseason, Hill averaged 4.8 points and 6.3 rebounds. He was a difference maker off of the Lakers’ bench, hustling for loose balls and fighting for every board.
Prior to landing in Los Angeles, Hill was often labeled as a bust since he hadn’t lived up to the high expectations that come with being selected eighth overall. However, Hill is only 24 years old and still has plenty of potential. He’s now an unrestricted free agent and he’ll likely receive interest from a number of teams this offseason.
“I’m a free agent right now and I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Hill said. “I’m just going to keep working, keep doing what I’ve been doing every summer. I’ll go from there and see where I’m going to land.”
Hill enjoyed his brief stint with the Lakers and he would love to re-sign with the team.
“It definitely would be great (to re-sign with the Lakers),” Hill said. “I hate moving. I wouldn’t have to learn another system all over again. But things happen. It’s a business and I definitely have to stay prepared for it. I’m just trying to find a home.”
“It’s definitely one of the best organizations in the league,” Hill added. “I had a great time in the short time that I was here. The staff and players were great. I enjoyed it.”
Hill exceeded expectations in Los Angeles and stepped up when his number was called. Now, he’ll test free agency and draw interest from teams looking to add a high-energy big man who still has plenty of room to grow as a player.
Phelps Training for NBA Draft: After spending four years at Long Beach State, Eugene Phelps is preparing for the 2012 NBA Draft. He has been training at Impact Basketball in Los Angeles for several weeks and he has already begun scheduling workouts with NBA teams.
On the 49ers, Phelps was forced to play out of position and he’s hoping to show teams that he can play forward at the next level. He’s very athletic and has a surprisingly reliable jump shot that he didn’t get the opportunity to display in college.
HOOPSWORLD caught up with Phelps in L.A. and discussed his pre-draft training.
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