2021 Exit Interview: Domantas Sabonis

May 21, 2021 - Domantas Sabonis discusses the team's injuries this season and his on-the-court relationship with Myles Turner.

2021 Exit Interviews

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2021 Exit Interview: Domantas Sabonis

May 21, 2021 - Domantas Sabonis discusses the team's injuries this season and his on-the-court relationship with Myles Turner.
May 21, 2021  |  01:28

2021 Exit Interview: Myles Turner

May 21, 2021 - Myles Turner gives an update on his injury and discusses this team's potential in the future and the possibility of playing in the Olympics.
May 21, 2021  |  02:24

2021 Exit Interview: Malcolm Brogdon

May 21, 2021 - Pacers point guard Malcolm Brogdon looks back on the 2020-21 season, thinks about where he would like to improve, and expresses his excitement for the future.
May 21, 2021  |  01:22

2021 Exit Interview: T.J. Warren

May 22, 2021 - T.J. provides an update on his health and discusses how he can help the Pacers moving forward.
May 22, 2021  |  02:00

2021 Exit Interview: T.J. McConnell

May 21, 2021 - T.J. McConnell discusses why this was the best season of his career, the success of the second unit, and entering free agency for the second time.
May 21, 2021  |  02:37

2021 Exit Interview: Justin Holiday

May 22, 2021 - Justin Holiday discusses where he wants to see the Pacers improve next season and his personal goals for the offseason.
May 22, 2021  |  01:49

2021 Exit Interview: Doug McDermott

May 21, 2021 - Doug McDermott details why he had a successful season and why he loves playing for the Pacers.
May 21, 2021  |  01:25

2021 Exit Interview: Oshae Brissett

May 23, 2021 - Oshae Brissett reflects on earning a roster spot and ultimately a pivotal role with the Pacers, and his personal and team goals for the offseason.
May 23, 2021  |  02:50

2021 Exit Interview: Jeremy Lamb

May 21, 2021 - Jeremy Lamb reflects on the ups-and-downs of his season and discusses what he wants to improve on going forward.
May 21, 2021  |  01:46

2021 Exit Interview: Goga Bitadze

May 21, 2021 - Pacers center Goga Bitadze reflects on how he grew in his second NBA season and discusses his excitement to finally get back to his home country of Georgia this summer.
May 21, 2021  |  01:42

2021 Exit Interview: Edmond Sumner

May 22, 2021 - Edmond Sumner discusses what he's proud of from this season, what he'll work on in the offseason and his desire to be a member of the Pacers.
May 22, 2021  |  01:41

2021 Exit Interview: Aaron Holiday

May 22, 2021 - Aaron Holiday discusses being in and out of the rotation, the challenges of guarding bigger players, and how he focuses on development each season.
May 22, 2021  |  02:24

2021 Exit Interview: Cassius Stanley

May 23, 2021 - Cassius Stanley reflects on his unusual rookie season and shares his goals heading into the 2021-22 campaign.
May 23, 2021  |  01:36

2021 Exit Interview: JaKarr Sampson

May 22, 2021 - JaKarr Sampson reflects on a season with unique challenges, then discusses his goals for the offseason and being a free agent
May 22, 2021  |  02:17

2021 Exit Interview: Kelan Martin

May 23, 2021 - Kelan Martin discusses the challenges of being out of the rotation for much of the season, finally getting an opportunity in the final month, and building on that momentum heading into the offseason.
May 23, 2021  |  02:50

2021 Exit Interview: Amida Brimah

May 21, 2021 - Pacers center Amida Brimah discusses joining the team late in the season on a two-way contract, making his NBA debut, and his goals for the offseason.
May 21, 2021  |  01:36

Pacers Reflect on Season Full of Unique Challenges

by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

The Pacers' performance in the 2021 Play-In Tournament was in many ways a microcosm of their season.

In their evisceration of Charlotte on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Blue & Gold led by as many as 39 points and won by 27.

On Thursday in Washington, the script was flipped. The Wizards led by as many as 38 and won by 27, ending the Pacers' season, 142-117.

A season marked by injuries and inconsistency ended one win short of the playoffs, as the Pacers failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014-15. In the end, the Pacers didn't have enough to match Washington's dynamic backcourt duo of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal.

T.J. Warren could have helped, but last year's leading scorer played just four games before undergoing season-ending foot surgery.

Myles Turner, the NBA's leading shotblocker, played just once after April 6 due to his own foot injury.

Caris LeVert, who had been brilliant for Indiana over the past two months, missed the Play-In Tournament due to the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Those were the big pieces missing on Thursday, but virtually every player on the roster (save for the "Iron Man" Justin Holiday) missed a number of games for one reason or another. That's to say nothing of the unique challenges this season created for all NBA teams, with a compressed schedule and strict protocols to try to limit the impact of COVID-19.

"I was talking to some of the rookies (and) we were saying this is not what a normal NBA season is," Holiday said. "There were a lot of restrictions on what you could do on and off the court. It was less time of rest in between games, less practice time, less preparation. It was just a tough year all around with so many different variables.

"There was a lot of things that we had to endure. And I believe we did the best that we could with enduring that and doing our best on the basketball court."

Thursday's game was competitive early, with six ties and six lead changes over the first 14 minutes. But Washington seized control with a 16-0 run shortly thereafter. The Pacers never got back within single digits the rest of the way.

That sequence was indicative of the issues for Indiana all night. The Wizards got to the paint at will, scoring 14 of their 16 points within eight feet of the basket and the other two at the free throw line.

Westbrook got downhill time and again, either scoring himself or creating easy looks for his teammates. By halftime, the Wizards had 40 points in the paint and were shooting 56.3 percent from the field.

The Pacers, meanwhile, endured a critical 3:50 scoreless stretch during that Wizards run and shot just 37.3 percent over the first two quarters, falling into a 66-52 halftime hole.

"We allowed them to get into transition," forward Doug McDermott said. "Obviously when you've got Westbrook and Beal, two guys like that, they're so tough to guard. They got out in transition and they were getting offensive rebounds and driving right by us. We weren't able to sustain any of their punches."

Domantas Sabonis, Daniel Gafford

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

Any hopes of a second half rally were quickly dispelled in the third quarter, as the Blue & Gold continued to struggle to keep the Wizards out of the paint. Washington's first five field goals of the second half came on layups. And then Beal took over.

The NBA's second-leading scorer went off for 11 points (three 3-pointers and a dunk) during a 20-4 Wizards run that pushed their lead to 30 points, 98-68, with 4:07 remaining in the third quarter. From there, it was all but over.

"When you give this team the free running lanes and that kind of confidence...they played well," Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren said. "They played very well against us. We had a hard time with them this year for different reasons."

The Wizards took all four games against Indiana this season, averaging 140.3 points over those contests.

Washington was a bad matchup. Against the league as a whole, the Pacers had their moments, but they were unable to sustain success. The Blue & Gold won their first three games to open the season, then had just two more three-game win streaks the rest of the year. Sure enough, their season ended when the Wizards denied their final bid to reel off three consecutive victories.

After Thursday's loss, the team spoke at length about the unique challenges this season presented. Not only were the Pacers ravaged by injuries, but the COVID-19 protocols made it extra challenging for first-year coach Bjorkgren to find adequate practice time.

"Practice time would revolve around testing time and sometimes you'd really have to take into consideration the amount of time it would take for testing and then managing the team to try to stay healthy," Bjorkgren said.

"But I'll tell you, I enjoyed so much talking and working with these players, especially as the year went on. There's always a lot of ups and downs through the season, but the relationships and the love I have for everybody in that locker room, the sky's the limit for that."

Malcolm Brogdon, one of the leaders of the team, highlighted the positives that the team could take away from this season.

"I spoke in the locker room right after the game and just told everybody I'm proud of them," Brogdon said. "I'm proud of us. Guys stepped up. Oshae (Brissett), Ed (Sumner), Aaron (Holiday), these guys stepped at a level people didn't think that they could. I'm proud of my guys."

Others echoed that sentiment.

"We were missing a lot of guys," McDermott said. "We had a lot of injuries. Just the fact that we were able to put ourselves in this position, I was honestly proud of us. We could have hung it up a while ago and we just kept fighting.

"We had fun together...in a year of challenging times when you can't really leave the hotel or do a whole lot socially, you really lean on these guys. They'll be brothers of mine for life. I'm just really happy I was able to be a part of a group like this."

While injuries and protocols played a large role this season, there was still plenty of disappointment at failing to reach a goal. This was supposed to be the year the Pacers broke through after losing in the first round for five straight seasons. Instead, they missed the playoffs altogether.

But Justin Holiday, the oldest player on the team and the only one who has won an NBA championship, said that facing this adversity can make Indiana stronger in the long run.

"You can only do one or two things when you fail and you get hit in the mouth," Holiday said. "Either you hit back or you sit down and you don't do anything with it...This year was a hit in the mouth, period. And I believe that we're going to do what we can and we're going to allow that to motivate us the right way.

"We have no other option."

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