The Glory Years of the Indiana Pacers (alas pretty much all pre-merger), under old-school coach Bob (Slick) Leonard, notched three ABA championships.
The 1990’s under the Leadership of the Larry’s (Brown and Bird) brought a return to prominence and a trip to the NBA Finals, but no rings.
Frank Vogel’s current Pacer crop has been a force to be reckoned with in the NBA for the past couple of years or so, sitting atop the Eastern Conference heap for the bulk of this 2013-14 campaign and looking plenty capable of unseating the South Beach Sultans.
But the NBA schedule is a burdensome grind, and a closer look at the Pacers’ second half reveals a chink or two in their armor. In 75 games (52 of them victories), the team has converted exactly 100 more field goals than its opponents (2694-2594). Just four weeks and 16 games (10 of them defeats) ago, that margin had been 140 (2178-2038).
Most troubling, these Pacers have gotten themselves “stuck in the ‘70’s.” But it’s not that championship decade to which they are hearkening back.
In five of their last six games, Indiana failed to reach the 80 point plateau. In each of those contests, the Pacers failed to convert 30 field goals. (We’ve discussed the pernicious effect of those 20-something games earlier this season.)
Let’s review the achievement of the Pacers over the past two seasons. They got off to a stumbling start in 2012-13, a mere 10-10 through six weeks of play.
Then the light bulb went on – they were nine games over .500 (25-16) by the mid-point of the season, ended up 49-32 and put Miami through seven grueling games before falling in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Determined to obtain home-court playoff advantage this time around (an edge they’d been holding until the last day of the 22nd week), Vogel’s squad began their season with a nine-game winning streak.
At both the quarter-pole and the mid-point, Indiana owned the best record in the league. They topped the Association in opponent field-goal percentage and defensive efficiency at both junctures.
percent they been converting during the first 41 games. Additionally, the Pacers were becoming increasing less efficient in forcing turnovers. After forcing a turnover on 16 percent of opponent possessions (No. 9) in the season’s opening quarter, that figure had dropped to about 14 percent and their league ranking has dropped to No.17 (second six-weeks) and then No. 22 (third six-weeks).
And despite eking out a home-court victory over their chief rivals last week (a game in which they made exactly 30 FG’s), the bottom has fallen out in the past two weeks to the tune of six losses in eight games.
The Pacers’ level of achievement over these two seasons resembles that famous “Curve” that everybody asks his college professor if he grades on. (“Twenty-five percent of the class has got to fail!” – Mr. Tierney, briefly my high school Geometry teacher. He’s why I need Horatio to this day!
The good old “Normal” Curve.
Now, please help an old man get a better understanding, somebody – just why did Bird have to sign this Bynum character?