As you might've heard, an awful lot's gone wrong for the Indiana Pacers of late. After spending almost the entirety of the 2013-14 season in the driver's seat in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers ceded the No. 1 spot to the Miami Heat earlier this week after dropping three straight, five of six and 10 of 16.
As fans and analysts have searched for reasons for the slide, one of the more common explanations — beyond locker-room squabbling and potential off-court distractions — has been that Indiana has basically forgotten how to play offense. While the Pacers were never a dominant scoring team, relying on their league-topping defense to grind down the opposition, they've become a downright inept and punchless offensive unit over the past couple of months, topping 100 points just twice in the month of March and ranking 29th among 30 NBA teams in points scored per possession since Feb. 1 — only the historically awful Philadelphia 76ers have been worse at scoring during that stretch.
They've been bad at generating and converting open opportunities, even against less-than-stellar opposition, and they once again found themselves in tighter-than-it-should-be territory on Wednesday, holding onto a slim one-point advantage over the visiting and lottery-bound Detroit Pistons with just under 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when ... well, this happened:
Roy Hibbert rebounded his own miss on the inside and kicked the ball back out to small forward Paul George at the top of the key. The shot clock should have reset as a result of Hibbert's shot hitting the rim, but it didn't do so immediately, leaving George briefly thinking that he had to hoist up a shot to beat the buzzer. I mean, I hope that's what he was thinking. (Then again, this is far from the worst look Indy's managed of late. At least George was open.)
Just as he let it fly, the shot clock did reset, which is the kind of thing you have to imagine would make you feel a sinking feeling in your stomach if you noticed it just after you cast off.
“They reset as I was shooting,” George told Fox Sports Indiana after the game. “They kind of messed me up.”
If he felt messed up, he sure didn't show it, though. The shot splashed through the basket easily and breezily, extending Indiana's advantage to four points with 3:19 remaining and averting what would have been a pretty absurd moment of crisis. George tried to keep cool after his whoops went in, but he couldn't resist cracking a smile as his teammates made their way back down the court on defense.
The deep triple — measured at 35 feet, according to the official box score, but it sure longer than that; he was a step inside the center circle, man — didn't end matters officially, as Detroit got back within a point on a Brandon Jennings 3-ball two possessions later. It did seem to ease the Pacers' tension, though, as a pair of subsequent jumpers from George and David West gave Indy a little bit of breathing room, allowing them to finish off a 101-94 win.
After going 16 for 48 from the field during the Pacers' three-game slide, George finished with 27 points on 9 for 19 shooting, including a 4 for 10 mark from 3-point land, to go with 13 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and just two turnovers in 38 minutes of work. West added 15 points and eight boards in the win, which allowed Indy to keep pace with the also victorious Heat, who maintain a thousandths-of-a-percentage-point advantage atop the East.
- - - - - - -