INDIANAPOLIS–The Pacers have looked like they’ve been out of energy for weeks.
Tonight, as they faced a Brooklyn Nets team that was trying to clinch a playoff spot, it showed enough for Pacers head coach Nate McMillan to speak candidly about it after the game.
“We’re talking about we want to play,” said McMillan, “but I may have to make some decisions for some guys [to rest]. Because our motor is very low right now, that effort that we saw at the start of the game. We can’t start like that.”
McMillan highlighted the 12 offensive rebounds in the first half as a sign that the Pacers had no fight in this one, and while he doesn’t think it’s a lack of effort, he did admit that perhaps the team has hit a wall.
“Guys have given extra since Victor’s been out. We’ve had to lift and probably ask for a little bit more from this group since we lost a key player like that,” said McMillan. “… We’ve squeezed our guys a lot to get to this point. Is there anything left? I think so.”
McMillan said they will have the day off tomorrow and will be in talks with everyone to see what they need to do in terms of rest to be ready for the playoffs next week. The Pacers are just one win shy of their 48 wins from last year while Oladipo has missed over half the season. It’s an impressive feat but the team has been running on fumes.
The Pacers have struggled with their tough schedule since the All-Star break, seemingly playing a team fighting for something in the playoffs every night. They’ve gone 7-14 since February 25th and just 3-9 since March 16th.
“If we hit a wall or run out of gas, there’s nothing we can really do about that but try to rest as much as possible and continue to go out there and play,” said Thad Young. “That happens when your star player goes down. You have to give a little bit more. You have to elevate your game. It’s a process. … The biggest thing is just to continue to play, stay the course and making sure we’re there on the defensive side.”
Young was very focused on the poor defensive effort from the Pacers tonight, mentioning the many lapses on that end with backdoor cuts, letting guys blow by them, not smashing down on rebounds.
“Defense is what wins games for us and we haven’t been playing very good defense,” Young said. “… That’s not what we do as a team, we keep guys in front of us, we play physical on the defensive end and we make teams work for each and every bucket. That’s what we haven’t been doing.”
Young suggested the team going back to the basics and doing “high-school” drills like closeouts and putting guys in forced help positions.
Domantas Sabonis, who had his 30th double double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds, wasn’t a fan of the idea of taking games off or resting games but even he noted that the team has lacked energy.
“I think it’s the energy,” Sabonis said of what needs corrected before the playoffs. “If we don’t have energy, we can’t guard. Everyone’s thinking ‘Oh, he’s going to help me out, he’s going to help me out,’ but we just got to stick together. The main thing is not falling apart.”
The Pacers have one week before the playoffs begin to recharge and find the energy necessary to pull off the upset against the Celtics. They’re now officially locked into the 5th seed.
“I’m very confident in our group that we’re gonna do well,” said Darren Collison, who made his return to the lineup by making just 2 of his 12 shot attempts. “I think we match up well with them; we’ve been playing them well all year long. I’m not just looking at the last game. I think when we play our best, we can beat any team in the East and I’m very confident about that.”
For the Pacers to be at their best, they made need to take this week and rest.