Pacers Approaching Final Two Games as Tuneup

April 6, 2019 - After practice on Saturday, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan talked about potentially dialing back some minutes of key players, while Darren Collison talked about his improved health as he recovers from a sore groin.

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Pacers Approaching Final Two Games as Tuneup

April 6, 2019 - After practice on Saturday, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan talked about potentially dialing back some minutes of key players, while Darren Collison talked about his improved health as he recovers from a sore groin.
Apr 6, 2019  |  02:13

Pacers Looking to Reconnect

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Given the disappointing performance in Friday's 20-point loss to Boston, given the need to reconnect Darren Collison with the other starters, given the fact his team still isn't mathematically eliminated from earning homecourt advantage in the playoffs, it's not really a difficult decision for Nate McMillan.

"We'll play our guys," the Pacers coach said following Saturday's practice at St. Vincent Center. "We may cut minutes, but we're not going to sit anyone out."

That means no healthy bodies will be held out of Sunday's game against Brooklyn at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, a group the Pacers hope includes Collison. The veteran point guard has missed the previous three games with a strained groin and wants to return as soon as possible. He participated in a fullcourt scrimmage with non-rotation teammates and some Pacers' staff members following Saturday's session, and reported no problems.

PLAYOFF PICTURE: Track the Pacers' Playoff Push »

If he feels ready Sunday morning, he'll play against the Nets. He said consideration has been given to holding him out until the playoffs begin as a precaution, but he doesn't want to sit out that long.

"I felt pretty solid," he said. "Now it's about gaining my rhythm and conditioning back."

McMillan's decision also is made easier by the fact nobody wants to sit out. Thad Young and Bojan Bogdanovic would be the obvious candidates for "load management," having played every game this season. But they one-up Ernie Banks by taking a "let's play 82" approach to the season, and are anxious to put the team's pieces back together before the playoffs begin.

The buzzword on Saturday was "connected." The Pacers didn't feel that way against the Celtics, and know they need to tighten up all loose ends to have any chance to succeed in the postseason with a roster missing it's only All-Star, Victor Oladipo.

"We were not connected like we used to be, so we have to get back to work and start to play our basketball again," said Bogdanovic, who is coming off one of his most frustrating games of the season with just four points on 1-of-8 shooting.

"We have to flush this game. They brought their best yesterday and we didn't."

That was McMillan's message to his players on Saturday. The Celtics seemed to play about as well as they can play and the Pacers didn't come close to matching that level of effort and execution. There's no logical explanation for that in a game the Pacers themselves hyped as important for the cause of homecourt advantage. It happens, though, even in the NCAA tournament and NBA playoffs.

"Sports is complicated sometimes," Collison said.

Recovering the mojo that has the Pacers in position to exceed last season's 48-win total even with Oladipo missing more than half of the season starts on defense. They allowed the Celtics 67 points on 25-of-43 shooting in the second and third quarters, when the outcome was determined. They also failed in one of their primary pre-game goals, controlling transition. The Celtics scored 26 fastbreak points, 10 more than the Pacers.

Darren Collison

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

Although the Pacers led 27-24 after the first quarter and didn't relinquish the lead for good until eight minutes remained in the second, Young believes they set themselves up for failure by not starting the game more energetically and physically on defense.

"You can't start out not playing aggressive and then pick it up," he said. "The refs aren't going to call it the same way. We can't all of a sudden not touch guys and then touch guys."

Or, as McMillan put it: "They didn't feel us at all defensively."

Defensive intensity involves the vocal chords as much as footwork. Safe to say nobody in the Pacers' locker room following Friday's game had a scratchy throat.

"It starts with communication," McMillan said. "Your voices connect you, and we didn't have a lot of that in transition."

Collison's return won't automatically solve anything, but it might be a start. He watched the previous three games on television, which turned out to be a painful viewing experience on Friday. It could have its benefits, though, as a scouting exercise.

"I got a chance to look at Boston – just to see how they're moving, some of the sets they run, what they like to do," he said. "Sometimes if you get to sit back and be on the outside looking in, you get to pick up some things. They did a good job with their physicality. It did seem like they wanted it more than us, and that's not going to happen when we play in Game 1."

Collison's return won't automatically solve anything, but it might be a start. He watched the previous three games on television, which turned out to be a painful viewing experience on Friday. It could have its benefits, though, as a scouting exercise.

"I got a chance to look at Boston – just to see how they're moving, some of the sets they run, what they like to do," he said. "Sometimes if you get to sit back and be on the outside looking in, you get to pick up some things. They did a good job with their physicality. From the start of the game to the finish, it did seem like they wanted it more than us, and that's not going to happen when we play in Game 1.

"We'll be more than ready. Sometimes a loss like that can help analyze what you need to do to get better."


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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