The Indiana Pacers have struggled defensively during a month-long slump that’s left them at the bottom of the Central Division. They’ll hope to have better results trying to stop the team with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
The Pacers look to snap a six-game losing streak Monday night when they visit the Washington Wizards.
As the only team in the league that’s beaten East-leading Boston and the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers, Indiana (7-16) has shown some promise early this season.
The Pacers, though, have lost six straight games since their Dec. 2 win over the Lakers, falling to 3-13 since Nov. 14.
“It’s tough. Losing doesn’t solve any problems,” said point guard T.J. Ford, in his first season with Indiana.
“Most of the time when you start losing, you see teams get divided and you hear more complaining. This team, I think we’ve done a good job staying together and staying positive. We just need to stick together, that’s the only way we’re going to get through it.”
Playing better defense could help, too. The Pacers have given up an average of 107.1 points in their last 16 games, including at least 100 in five of six contests during their current skid. They allowed Milwaukee to record a season-high point total in their 121-103 loss Saturday night.
“We’re not cooking on all cylinders on our defense,” said Pacers coach Jim O’Brien, whose team overcame a 21-point deficit to take a fourth-quarter lead before giving up the last 19 points of the game. “We’re not playing up to the level that I think our team is capable of playing on the defensive end.”
Indiana players know where they need to improve, and think it’s only a matter of time before they make some progress.
“Our defense needs a lot of work,” center Jeff Foster said. “Guys got to take more pride in it. When that happens, we will be competitive again.”
It may take more for the Wizards (4-17) to get back on track after matching the 1966-67 Baltimore Bullets for the worst start in franchise history.
The early struggles already cost coach Eddie Jordan his job when he was fired Nov. 24, and interim coach Ed Tapscott hasn’t fared much better, going 3-7 in his first head coaching gig.
Washington trailed by as many as 11 points in the first quarter, and was never within single digits in the second half of its 104-89 loss to Philadelphia on Saturday night.
“We’ve got to stop digging holes,” Tapscott said. “You can’t wait until the fourth quarter to get serious.”
The Wizards won both their home games against the Pacers as the clubs split their four-game series last season.
Antawn Jamison, Washington’s leading scorer (21.4 points per game) and rebounder (10.2) in 2007-08, was held to 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in the two wins, while averaging 28.0 points and 14.0 boards in the two losses.
Pacers forward Danny Granger, who’s just 8-for-32 (25.0 percent) from 3-point range over his last five games, made 17 of 33 (51.5 percent) 3-point attempts while averaging 22.8 points against Washington last season.