Pacers Understand Game 2 Mistakes, Excited to Play at Home

April 19, 2018 - Nate McMillan, Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, and Lance Stephenson break down Indiana's 100-97 Game 2 loss in Cleveland and look forward to Game 3 on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

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Pacers Understand Game 2 Mistakes, Excited to Play at Home

April 19, 2018 - Nate McMillan, Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, and Lance Stephenson break down Indiana's 100-97 Game 2 loss in Cleveland and look forward to Game 3 on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Apr 19, 2018  |  02:39

Pacers Point Fingers at Themselves For Game 2 Loss

by Mark Montieth Writer

One afternoon following their Game 2 loss at Cleveland, a loss many of their fans were blaming on the whistles of the officials, the Pacers were pointing fingers.

At themselves, though. For not starting the game with the focus and energy they took into Game 1, for not staying out of foul trouble, for not shooting better, for not, quite simply, playing well enough to win.

So, while their video review no doubt turned up some calls worthy of protest, they didn't come close to absolving themselves of blame for the loss, or even politicking for more favorable judgements from the referees in Game 3 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday.

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"We did some things that beat ourselves," Darren Collison said. "Made some uncharacteristic mistakes. Didn't play Pacer basketball.

"I will say that … you know … the fans, they're in tune. They're watching the games, you know what I mean. They know what's going on. At the same time, there are some calls that went our way and some calls that went their way. We're not going to rely on the refs. We have a fair shot at beating this team on our own."

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"But we feel good going into game 3. We'll make the necessary adjustments and move forward."

The Pacers fought back from an 18-point first-quarter deficit to get within three points in the final minute on Wednesday, and had a chance to tie the game on Victor Oladipo's three-pointer. They could – and did – take some confidence from the fact they even got to that point in a game in which Oladipo played just 28 minutes because of foul trouble and LeBron James unleashed 46 points in 40 minutes.

The obvious first point of emphasis for the Pacers on Friday will be to keep Oladipo out of foul trouble. The only player in the NBA more valuable to his team than him probably is James, as proven by the Pacers' struggles without him.

They were 0-7 during the regular season when he didn't play, and were outscored by 14 points in the 20 minutes he didn't play on Wednesday. When he did play, the Pacers won 64 percent of their games during the regular season – a record that would have made them the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference instead of fifth – and outscored the Cavs by 11 points in the 28 minutes he played on Wednesday.

His absence had a ripple effect beyond his singular contributions at both ends of the court.

Darren Collison

"We went off on our own and thought, 'I'll get us back,'" Pacers coach Nate McMillan said of his team's reaction to the loss of its All-Star guard.

"We lost our way there. We had a hard time finding that rhythm. Our spacing was bad. We didn't recognize the mismatches."

McMillan slipped to the floor after protesting the lack of a foul call on James in the fourth quarter, after James shoved Stephenson out of the way, but he had no quarrel with the two fouls called on Oladipo in the game's first 62 seconds. One call came when Oladipo bumped into James who was setting a screen, the other came when Oladipo drove to the basket and knocked over a Cavs defender.

"They looked like fouls to me," McMillan said.

A third foul was called in the second quarter when Oladipo challenged Kevin Love's 3-point attempt. The end result was Oladipo playing just 8 minutes, 15 seconds in the first half. The Pacers trailed Cleveland by 12 points at halftime, but outscored it by two when Oladipo was in the game.

Oladipo just shrugged Thursday when asked his opinion of the foul calls.

Victor Oladipo

"I can't control it, so it don't matter what I think about it now," he said. "It's in the past. I'm looking forward to (Friday) night."

Just as obvious as keeping Oladipo in the game is the Pacers' need to contend with James, who's entered his own stratosphere as a player. He's not expected to be voted the NBA's Most Valuable Player this season, but few people would argue he's the league's best player. It's apparently become too obvious, and voters don't want him to win it every year.

Whether or not James needs to score 40-plus points for the Cavs to win remains to be seen, but the Pacers believe they can do a better job than on Wednesday. Even if he does attack the game as aggressively as he did then.

"We've got to square our shoulders and keep him in front and load to the ball (when he drives)," McMillan said. "He was able to get to the basket early. He made a couple of contested shots, but for the most part he put his head down and went to the basket on us.

"He can't get rim attempts as he did (Wednesday) night."

That means getting help from those not assigned to James, but that creates the risk of James passing off for open 3-pointers. It's the kind of damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't dilemma all great players pose.

"Do you guys have any answers? Collison said, smiling. "It's challenging. The good thing about (assistant coach) Dan Burke, he always has a good game plan and we're ready to follow him."

The Pacers were upbeat following Wednesday's defeat, both in the locker room and in interviews. They followed through following Thursday's practice, showing no hints of a downcast team. They have homecourt advantage in what's now a best-of-five series and the next two games are on the their home court.

There's also the fact a lot of people seem to believe they're the better team in the series now. They aren't staking claims, however.

"I think you would have to feel that way in order to win a game," Oladipo said. "I think they feel like that and we feel like that. Just going to go out there and play."

And not bring officiating into the converstion.

"I haven't seen it help," McMillan said.

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Mark Montieth's book, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," covers the formation and early seasons of the franchise. It is available at retail outlets throughout Indiana and online at sources such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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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