Pacers improving, but questions remain
The Pacers nudged their record to 8-8 with their win at Sacramento Friday night, an appropriate record for a team that appears capable of going in either direction.
They’ve won four of their previous five games, and the first two of their three-game California swing, which concludes tonight in Oakland against Golden State. That’s encouraging. So is the play of David West and George Hill, who are practically carrying the team piggyback so far.
There’s always a “but” though, isn’t there?
They’ve failed to beat a team that currently has a winning record, and six of their eight wins have come against teams currently in last place in their division. That’s discouraging. So is the play of Roy Hibbert, who continues to bring more mystery than action to the season’s story.
Their game tonight against the 9-6 Warriors will be telling. A loss will be forgivable and the trip will be regarded as successful regardless. But, how hard do they play? The last game of Western trips are always interesting in that regard, especially after a team has won a couple of games. They reveal character, and the Pacers’ collective character remains as uncertain as their .500 record.
For now, they can give thanks to West and Hill, who combined for 56 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists and just three turnovers in their 73 minutes against the Kings. Without them, the Pacers would be one of those last-place teams. But with Hibbert, they can compete with the first-place teams.
His lack of confidence and assertiveness is disturbing. Forget about his $58 million contract – and by the way, he should, too – he just needs to match last season’s level of play. He had eight points, six rebounds and five fouls in 29 minutes on Friday, and continued to play as if on roller skates.
A play with eight minutes left in the first quarter was telling. He picked a loose ball off the floor, but even with West in his ear yelling “Go up with it, Roy!” he fiddled with it and then passed out to Hill. A three-second violation killed the play.
Hibbert’s defense has been respectable, but his stats are down significantly across the board, other than blocked shots. The Pacers have little hope of becoming better than average if he doesn’t pick it up.
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