Pacers winning despite turnovers
Imagine if the Pacers could control their turnovers. Why, they’d probably be a first-place team or something.
Oh, wait. They still have the Eastern Conference’s best record (48-17), thanks in part to Miami’s slide. It’s lost five-of-six since LeBron James scored 61 points. That must be retribution for something, although I couldn’t guess what. Playing too well, maybe?
Still, the Pacers remain in the awkward position of having the best record in the Eastern Conference while continuing to annoy their fans. Their three-game lead over Miami – two in the loss column – is often forgotten when they’re struggling to put away a team such as Philadelphia, Friday’s 101-94 conquest.
The Pacers led by as many as 17 points in the first half, then got sloppy with their passes and shot selection and wound up letting the 76ers – who lost their 19th consecutive game – within three points in the fourth quarter.
Go figure. The Pacers shot 58 percent from the field, while the 76ers shot just 39 percent. But the 76ers got off 23 more field goal attempts, mostly because of the the Pacers’ 21 turnovers. Too many of them were unforced, merely the result of casual or reckless play by the Pacers. The starters were responsible for 18 of them. Paul George and Lance Stephenson in particular continued to be accidents waiting to happen at times, particularly after the lead became comfortable.
But they won, and Miami lost, and their lead in the race for homecourt advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs grew again. Whatever complaints Pacers fans have are nothing worse than what postgame radio show hosts are hearing in Miami or Oklahoma City or other cities where contending teams play.
The most problematic issue for the Pacers is their inability to maintain focus amid luxury. They’re far more than seven points better than Philadelphia, and should have had this game won by late in the third period. That would have allowed the starters to rest more in advance of Saturday’s game in Detroit, where the Pistons present a tougher challenge. But that’s not their way. They have yet to build the mental toughness to keep nose to grindstone when it’s not absolutely necessary.
Meanwhile, there’s two bits of good news, aside from Andrew Bynum’s part-time availability. Lavoy Allen offered an intriguing contribution Friday, with 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting in 18 minutes in his first meaningful appearance since his acquisition from Philadelphia. He also grabbed four rebounds and blocked two shots. And keep in mind, his defense is supposed to be his strength. He reiterated what coach Frank Vogel had said about him all along, that he wasn’t a throw-in to the deal for Evan Turner.
Luis Scola also has been revitalized. His injured right elbow – he never seemed sure exactly what the problem was – is feeling better, and he’s hit 18-of-32 shots in the last six games.
If the Pacers ever get everybody healthy, they probably can get away with too many turnovers. All the way to the Finals.