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It's March and Pacers Are on The Bubble

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

March 9, 2011

(Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

March is all about madness, the bubble and Cinderella for Clark Kellogg. And he does some work in college basketball, too.

Though he is schedule to work just two Pacers games this month (tonight in Minnesota and March 21 at New Jersey) because of his duties as the lead analyst for coverage of the NCAA Tournament on CBS, Kellogg will remain very much in touch with this NBA bubble team in Indianapolis.

"Vacillating between a couple of Pacers games and the tournament is not a real major difficulty because I've done it the last 15-16 years and I only get to do a couple of Pacers games during the month of March and when I do it's kind of nice to step into the NBA," he said. "I love the madness, don't get me wrong, but it's kind of nice to have a little break."

The Pacers are immersed in their own version of March madness, a month that brings 18 games in 30 days and three road trips of three games – the second of which commences tonight in Minneapolis. They are trying to become something of a Cinderella story in the NBA by turning their season around under interim coach Frank Vogel.

With four losses in a row and six in seven games, the Pacers have reduced their margin for error as they try to hold onto the eighth playoff spot in the East. Kellogg believes the biggest key for cracking the bracket lies in tightening up the defense.

"They've got to become a better defensive team and that's hard to do when you're practice time is so limited and the games are coming fast and furious against really good opponents," he said. "That's the kind of adversity you have to work through to be a playoff team. When you have to do it mid-stream on the fly, it's hard when you don't have the benefit of training camp and practice time. You're trying to build a foundation while the house is moving and that's just a hard thing to do."

The Pacers have yielded an average of 112.8 points in their current four-game skid that included a players-only meeting in the aftermath of a particularly frustrating loss in Houston.

"It's going to take guys staying together, which has not always been the strength of our group recently," Kellogg said. "Darren Collison has struggled with his game as he has adjusted and dealt with opponents that have been a tough matchup for him in terms of the size and physicality of some of the point guards we've faced recently.

"So defensively they've got to be better and offensively they just have to be committed to sharing the ball and playing together."

In the midst of a 15-game span that brings just four home games, the Pacers must cherish those opportunities at Conseco Fieldhouse. They dropped a 110-100 home decision to Philadelphia Tuesday night and are 17-15 at home. They're trying to extend a streak of 21 consecutive seasons with a winning record at home, the longest in the NBA.

"You've got to take care of home," Kellogg said. "I mean, home court wins are now essential and critical because the road is going to be brutal. That puts even more pressure on being able to handle the home court with a young, developing, in-transition team that is trying to grab something we haven't had our arms around for four or five seasons."