Bucks vs. Pacers

Brandon Knight scores 23 points and grabs seven rebounds as the Bucks beat the Pacers in Indianapolis.

Postgame 141104

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Bucks vs. Pacers

Brandon Knight scores 23 points and grabs seven rebounds as the Bucks beat the Pacers in Indianapolis.
Nov 4, 2014  |  00:00

Postgame: Pacers-Bucks Wrap Up 141104

November 4, 2014 - Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss wraps up Indiana's 87-81 loss to the Bucks and goes inside the locker room to get the team's reaction.
Nov 4, 2014  |  02:39

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room 141104

November 4, 2014 - Donald Sloan, Solomon Hill, Rodney Stuckey, C.J. Miles, and Chris Copeland discuss Indiana's 87-81 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Nov 4, 2014  |  02:44

Postgame: Frank Vogel 141104

November 4, 2014 - Pacers head coach Frank Vogel talks to media after Indiana's 87-81 loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday night.
Nov 4, 2014  |  03:49

Postgame - Bucks Locker Room 141104

Milwaukee head coach Jason Kidd, center Larry Sanders, and rookie forward Jabari Parker speak to the media after their 87-81 win over the Pacers Tuesday night.
Nov 4, 2014  |  01:56

Big-Time Block

Roy Hibbert with a big-time block during the first quarter.
Nov 3, 2014  |  00:00

Pacers Trying to Fix It on the Fly

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer

In the silver linings playbook, these games – these losses – are serving a valuable purpose. Young players are gaining experience, gaining confidence, that can serve them well later in the season after the injured veterans return.

Problem is, these games count in the standings like any other regular season game. They're not exhibitions, and the NBA doesn't take injuries into consideration in compiling the final standings. So, the Pacers will have to figure this out on the fly while waiting on the veteran players to return, which won't be happening anytime soon.

Tuesday's 87-81 loss to Milwaukee at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which dropped them to 1-3, was more of the same. The good news was that they broke the habit of committing 18 turnovers, as they had done in the first three games. The bad news was that they committed 19. They also hit just 59 percent of their foul shots, 25 percent of their three-pointers, and 40 percent of their field goal attempts.

It's a wonder, then, that they still had a shot at pulling out a victory in the final minute, after Chris Copeland – who led them with 19 points – hit a three-pointer with 42.5 seconds left. But Milwaukee's Brandon Knight hit a 21-foot jumper with the shot clock running down to save the Bucks, who had led by 17 midway through the third quarter.

The Pacers are playing hard and they're trying to play together. They look like a team that could benefit from another training camp, with a week or two of two-a-days to build chemistry and iron out wrinkles. The reality is they'll play four games in five nights this week, two of them on the road. There's barely time to get to the next game, let alone practice.

Then again, there's something to be said for working out problems at game speed, against the best competition.

“There's nothing like game experience,” Copeland said. “There's something to be said about learning under fire. But practice helps, too.”

Actually, what the Pacers need or want doesn't matter much. They're simply stuck in a difficult situation, missing two starters (David West and George Hill) and another key reserve (C.J. Watson), and have no choice but to try to put their house in order amid the hurricane.

They don't have the luxury of getting away with shooting poorly, as good teams do. C.J. Miles went scoreless, missing all eight shots, and is now 14-of-50 on the season – 5-of-25 from the three-point line. Luis Scola scored just two points on 1-of-4 shooting. Donald Sloan scored five points on 2-of-7 shooting. That's three starters combining to hit 3-of-19 shots, and a future starter (when he gets healthy), Rodney Stuckey, hitting 3-of-11.

You can legitimately blame lack of familiarity for some of the misfires and turnovers, but not all of them. Fortunately, nobody in the locker room was looking for an excuse.

“There's a lot of things we're not going, a lot of breakdowns,” Sloan said.

“We've been around each other enough to know what coverages we're in, when to just say, 'I've got him.' As opposed to not saying anything and thinking someone else is going to get him. Just little things. It's stuff you learn in college, whether you know a person or not. Just communicating with one another. Just opening your mouth.”

The Pacers communicate perfectly well away from the games. Nobody is hiding from reporters in the training room, nobody is dropping their head and mumbling answers, nobody is complaining or blaming. Miles even managed some smiles while discussing his shooting problems. Following Monday's practice, he had said the first three games felt like 12 because of his shooting frustrations. Following Tuesday's game, he said four games felt like 50.

“Is it just a case of needing to see the first shot go down?” someone asked.

“It can be the second or third,” he said. “I just need one of them to go down.”

It's gotten to the point, Miles said, he almost fears getting wide open for a shot. That's a strange phobia for a guy who hit nearly 40 percent of his three-pointers each of the past two seasons. It got so bad Tuesday that George Hill admonished him during a timeout.

“You don't even look like yourself,” Hill said. “Relax. Shoot the basketball. I've been watching you shoot the ball every day. It doesn't even look like you.”

There are silver linings, though.

Roy Hibbert had 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, seven rebounds and five blocks against the Bucks. He's averaging 15 points for the season, while hitting 60 percent of his shots, and 8.8 rebounds. His work with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar over the summer didn't yield a sky-hook, but it has somehow led to a lethal mid-range shot.

Hill, the Solomon one, has looked like a legitimate NBA player, too. After playing 226 minutes as a rookie last season, virtually none of them at a crucial time, he's already up to 102. He's a solid defender, attacks the basket, moves the ball well and is starting to hit jumpers. He's 5-of-12 from the three-point line for the season, a payoff from his off-season work with a shooting coach.

He's struggling now with a common malady for young players: thinking too much. He began Tuesday's game smoothly, scoring seven points in the first 13 minutes, but his play deteriorated as time wore on and the Pacers fell behind.

“Then I started thinking and that's when I started messing up,” he said.

Lavoy Allen also has proven himself. With eight points and 12 rebounds against Milwaukee, he's now averaging 7 points and 8.3 rebounds for the season, in less than 30 minutes per game. So far he's playing better, and more often, than Scola.

The Pacers play again on Wednesday in Washington. And then on Friday at Boston. And then back at the Fieldhouse on Saturday against Washington again. They have four more games next week. There's potential for a disastrous start that buries them deep into the standings, but they don't show hints of succumbing mentally or emotionally, and the season is long – long enough to allow time for recoveries from both injuries and slow starts.

Larry Brown's first team in the 1993-94 season started 1-6, but won 47 games and took New York to seven games in the conference finals. Larry Bird's first team started 2-5, but won 58 games and took Chicago to seven games in the conference finals. A lot can change over the course of an 82-game season.

For now, that's the Pacers' ultimate silver lining.

“We can't beat ourselves up too early,” Copeland said. “We have to take this seriously, but it's a long season.”

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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