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Ball Don't Lie

The Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks prepare to spiritually extend their terrible, no-good series

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Two unidentified Hawks fans watch Game 5 (Getty Images)

The Indiana Pacers/Atlanta Hawks first round series has been miserable to watch to an almost absurd degree. The teams have traded bouts of excellent play with swoons on both ends of the floor, pairing terrible timing all along the way in a series that has featured five mostly one-sided games. Neither club has explicitly slacked off for long stretches, the effort has been there, but sound decision making and clarity of purpose hasn’t been in long supply for either side.

Befitting this expectancy is the home record for each team: Indiana has taken all three in Indianapolis, while the Hawks took two games in Atlanta, extending the team’s home winning streak over the Pacers to 13 consecutive games.

Because of this streak, Pacer coach Frank Vogel has gone all out in the superstitious realm to guarantee that Friday night’s Game 6 will not be more of the same.

(The previous sentence was brought to you by Opposite Day, because Frank Vogel has just about guaranteed that the Pacers and Hawks will play a terrible Game 6 that will end in yet another Hawks win. Mike Wells at the Indianapolis Star has the story.)

Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel has been known to shy away from certain ties or shirts he feels are bad luck.

But he’s not changing anything for Friday’s Game 6 of the Pacers’ NBA first-round playoff series against the Hawks despite a 13-game losing streak in Atlanta. The Pacers are staying at the same hotel they used in the Atlanta area for losses in Games 3 and 4.

“One of the worst things you can do is change up your routine, especially in a big-game situation,” said Dr. Adam Shunk, a sports psychologist at St. Vincent Sports Performance. “Most athletes stick to the basics and do what’s always worked. There’s no reason to change things at a big moment.”

True, if the results hadn’t already racked up the same way 13 times in a row, and this was actually a “big game” or “big moment.” Instead, this is the series that everybody hates, mainly because neither the Pacers nor Hawks seem capable of giving us a close, competitive game, and because a Game 6 Atlanta semi-blowout win was expected a good three minutes into the third quarter of Wednesday’s Game 5 Indiana semi-blowout win.

The Pacers did well to counter Atlanta’s bigger lineup in Game 5 with a huge rotation of their own. But Game 6 will be played in the Highlight Factory, home of so many classic postseason conquests, like the time ___________ or the game in which ___________________________________, and who could possibly forget ____________________? I’ve got goosebumps, just recalling those indelible NBA moments.

Scratch that, those triumphs of humanity.

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Yep. (Getty Images)

Because the Pacers are human, they’re probably quite fearful of that unknown element. In his preview, Wells goes on to consult a specialist familiar with the Pacers’ possibly irrational take:

“When you lose that many times in a row, it’s not uncommon for it to become a psychological or mental issue,” said Dr. John Lubker, a professor of sports psychology at Notre Dame. “Winning on the road is tough enough without any doubt creeping in there. But when you’ve lost that many, you start to see success as the abnormality and failure or difficulty is what’s expected.”

Vogel, to that end, seems ready for whatever, guys:

“Psychologically you can’t look at 13 in row,” Vogel said. “You just have to look at the fact that they play a different brand of basketball at home. Obviously we made some adjustments that will hopefully pour some sand on the fire to what they did to us down there. Every game is different; you can’t look at the past there.”

No! Every game has been the same! That’s the whole point! This series has been terrible and dull and one-sided and frustrating and way too long and I’ve had to watch every single second of it because I’ve earned my dream job! The Pacers and Hawks are ruining my dream job, and Frank Vogel can’t even be bothered to switch up his ties?!?!?!?

We kid, somewhat. All superstition is hooey and none of this really matters on the actual court. We just want one – ONE! – fun back and forth contest to come out a series that could end on Friday, in Atlanta.

… but probably won’t. See you in Indiana, on Sunday, for Game 7. Indiana will win by 15. Bet accordingly, wearing whatever lucky tie you want.

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