The Indiana Pacers were swept out of the 2017 NBA Playoffs by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but all four games were close. Despite their competitive showing in every playoff game, the Pacers are light years away from being a contender.
Rarely does a 4-0 loss in a playoff series give anyone on the losing side reason for optimism, but the Indiana Pacers managed to accomplish that feat in their first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Indiana had a potential game-winning shot bounce off the rim in Game 1, they held a commanding 26-point margin in Game 3 and they had the lead in Game 4 with 1:31 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Article continues below ...
All games the Pacers could have and, in some cases, should have won. But in reality, all ended with losses.
Those who see the glass as half-full are encouraged by Indiana’s competitive performance in a series where the average losing margin was a mere four points per game.
Great teams are victorious in most of their tight contests, while lesser teams typically find a way to lose games they seemingly had a very good chance to win — and these outcomes are no accident.
The Pacers’ series against the Cavaliers was a prime example of how large a gap there can be between two teams who spent the majority of each 48-minute game playing to a standoff.
“Crunch time” is what it’s all about; that’s when the superstars rise above and when the mentally tough and experienced teams pull through.
Yes, Indiana put up a good fight against Cleveland, but they were miles away from actually being a threat to the defending NBA champions.
Nobody on the Pacers’ roster stepped up when the chips were down and that includes their star, Paul George. George had an outstanding series statistically, but he regularly failed to make plays down the stretch.
If Larry Bird looks at this playoff series (in which the largest losing margin was six points) and thinks all his team needs is a tweak or two to become a contender, he’s fooling himself.
Indiana is a long way from making noise in the Eastern Conference — their list of weaknesses and inconsistencies is long.
Only on occasion do the Pacers display effort and execution on defense. As a unit, Indiana lacks the intensity, desire, focus and mental toughness to succeed at a high level in the playoffs.
Nate McMillan has never led a team beyond the second round of the playoffs in 13 years as an NBA head coach and he probably never will — his record seems to indicate that mediocrity is his ceiling.
McMillan hasn’t shown the ability to motivate his players and his strategies/adjustments vary between bad and non-existent. The Cavs’ Tyronn Lue, in his first full season leading an NBA team, completely outcoached McMillan during the Cavaliers-Pacers series.
The Pacers are not only far from being a player in the Eastern Conference championship race, but they are primed to lose Paul George in free agency, assuming they don’t punt and deal him for less than market value before the summer of 2018.