Notebook: Turnovers, Timeout-Gate, No Excuse Saturday
The Pacers were back on the main floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse after being on the road for the past seven days and three games. At Thursday’s practice, the emphasis was on ball security following their Game 2 loss in New York. The best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal is tied at 1-1.
They made too many mental mistakes, which hindered their chance of winning. Paul George threw the ball in anticipation of George Hill being in a spot. Turnover. With the shot clock nearing zero, D.J. Augustin felt the pressure and hurried his pass. Turnover. Ian Mahinmi fired the ball about 10 feet above anyone and into the stands. Turnover. Those are just three examples — three very glaring unforced errors.
In total, the Pacers coughed it up 21 times and as a result, attempted 23 fewer shots than the Knicks, who converted those turnovers in 32 points.
“[With] 21 turnovers, you’re not going to beat anybody in this league and that was the emphasis today,” Paul George said. “The only concern we have is just taking care of the ball.”
Not being tough with the ball accounted for many of their turnovers. As New York double teamed the post or on trapped on screens, just like in Game 1, the Pacers made regrettable errors that gave the ball away.
“New York is an elite steal team off the double team and off the trapping pick-and-rolls,” associate head coach Brian Shaw explained. “The first game we did a pretty good job of handling it, the second game we didn’t. The first game resulted in the win, the second game didn’t. They see the correlation, they know that they’re prepared for it. They just have to be a little bit more mentally focused.”
Focus is also part of the equation. Maybe it was already having one game in their bag, a big road win that gave them home court advantage. The energy, determination and focus that was obvious in Game 1 was absent on Tuesday. Not being sharp with the ball was a common theme.
“I think we just have to at one point don’t worry about what they’re doing and just be aggressive and let the game flow from there,” said Hill, who directs the offense. “I feel like when we’re being tentative, passive and kind of soft with the ball, that’s when they take advantage of us.”
Conversely, the Knicks, who commit the least amount of turnovers in the league (12.1), have been excellent in protecting the ball. They only handed it over to the Pacers seven times in Game 2, and just 10 times in Game 1. What can be done about that?
“We’ve got to make sure we’re brining enough ball pressure,” said Vogel. “We don’t want to foul but they’re a quick shooting team. That’s probably the biggest reason they are low on turnovers.”
As the gathered media watched the final 10 minutes or so of practice, every minute was dedicated to handling the ball. “Fake a pass to make a pass,” Vogel shouted to his team.
For all the talk about the memorable timeout (discussed below), turnovers ultimately did them in. “We feel like we blew an opportunity,” Vogel said as they had a favorable chance to return home with a 2-0 series lead.
In front of about 20 media members – three that I hadn’t seen all season – Pacers coach Frank Vogel opened Thursday’s media availability on a lighter note: ”If I knew all I had to do was call a bad timeout to get this team some national attention, I would have done it two years ago.”
The fired up coach was joking about his decision to halt play with 3:05 remaining in the third quarter of Tuesday’s loss. They had just gotten the ball back after Carmelo Anthony’s deep shot was off the mark. But on the Pacers’ previous two possessions, Lance Stephenson and George Hill hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the team ahead 64-62.
After the timeout, which Vogel also used to insert Jeff Pendergraph for the first time and give Roy Hibbert a brief rest, New York outscored Indiana 10-2 to close the quarter, part of a 36-4 run as the Pacers went 12:19 between field goals. By that time, the Pacers’ starters were already pulled and the game was well in hand for the Knicks.
“The game changed at that point, clearly,” Vogel said. “Certainly that wasn’t my intent. You try to keep momentum at that point. I didn’t feel like necessarily we had them on the ropes, a two-point game on the road with 15 minutes to play.”
So why the timeout, which backfired?
“I saw us have two or three possessions before that timeout were bad possessions. One of them led to a late shot clock three. Still, we looked tired and it didn’t work out. Hindsight is 20-20, right?. Live and learn.”
Three days between games
The Pacers and Knicks have an extended break – three days to be exact – before they resume the series on Saturday. That long of stretch is uncommon in the NBA, but it all revolves around television. In the regular season, the Pacers played on back-to-back nights 22 times — over 25 percent of their games.
In the postseason, practices are often shortened and contact is limited. Much of the time is spent cleaning up their mistakes, reviewing film and covering the opponents’ sets. The unusual rest for both the team and staff is appreciated.
“We would have liked one day and then come back at it, but a rest is always valuable at this time,” Paul George said.
David West added: “I think it’s good for us to get some rest. Ultimately, we’re going to have some practices, some shootarounds, more film sessions to prepare.”
Indy native George Hill, who requested that the Fieldhouse be full of mustard (also known as gold) Saturday night, brought a positive outlook. “The good thing is everyone’s going to be off work and don’t have work the next day so there’s no excuse not to get out here, right?”
Saturday’s game will air in primetime, at 8 PM EST, on ABC.