As I sit here writing this, the Indiana Pacers are preparing to play against the New York Knicks at home, the only game in an 11-game stretch in which Indiana is the unquestioned favorite.
Which has, every other time I’ve been watching this team in the four seasons I’ve been a basketball writer, augured a horrendous performance and a brutal, disappointing, “how did you lose to THAT tanking Dumpster fire at home?” game.
Tyreke Evans is missing the game for “personal reasons”, which is a nice little euphemism for his contracting a case of Butler’s Disease.
Domantas Sabonis looks like he’s still got lingering issues with his sore ankle, but if he doesn’t play, the bench unit will post about a minus-30 Net Rating while Nate McMillan sits the starters for enough of the fourth quarter that by the time they come back in, the game will be too far gone for a comeback even against the Knicks.
Victor Oladipo is shooting set shots from a chair as his ongoing physical therapy has us all waiting for next year.
To no one’s surprise, Victor Oladipo is still feathery. pic.twitter.com/lEcUi3B7he
— iPacers.com (@iPacersblog) March 12, 2019
And of the next 8 games after this one, only two are at home—against the Thunder and Nuggets—while six are on the road, all are against playoff teams, and five of those six road games are against Western Conference teams while the sixth game is the Celtics in one of those “this will have tiebreaker implications” games that the Pacers never win (see Sunday’s loss at Philadelphia.)
If the Pacers lose tonight, it will be the third of 11 straight losses. Indiana will be 42-34 after that, and sure, they’ll probably still be no worse than fifth unless the Pistons go absolutely buck wild this month (and after Detroit got their asses handed to them in Brooklyn, I’m not buying that outcome), but of all the teams they’re playing the entire rest of the way, only the Hawks, on the last day of the season and on the road, are not at least sniffing the playoff picture (there are two against Detroit, one against Brooklyn, one against Boston, and one against Orlando in the final six. Luckily, only the second Pistons game is on the road among those five games that actually have a chance to preview the playoffs in some capacity.)
Are we seriously about to watch an Indiana team run out to 42-23, in third place in March, not only fail to get to last year’s 48 wins but possibly finish with a collapse reminiscent of the 2016 Memphis Grizzlies, who were 39-26 on March 11th and finished 42-40 before getting swept by the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs?
Give the Pacers a 3-14 endgame and they’re 45-37. And sure, Brooklyn’s got a brutal schedule the rest of the way so they won’t catch Indiana, and Detroit looks like 44 wins is their absolute ceiling, but gods help all of us if Indiana drops to sixth and has to watch Myles Turner get bullied by Joel Embiid for five games’ worth of a gentleman’s sweep.
These are dark times for Pacers fans.
I mean, maybe there’s a bright side? Getting eliminated in the first round after a total collapse, maybe dropping from 18th in Offensive Rating down into the bottom ten so that it’s obvious even to Kevin Pritchard that it’s time to fire Nate McMillan and hire a coach who will install a legitimate modern NBA offense for when Vic comes back?
At least Indiana’s already got 42 wins. We’re getting a winning season no matter what.
Enjoy the Knicks game. Maybe get a roast beef sandwich to go with this roundball nihilism.
And go Pacers.