- Phil Taylor
INDIANAPOLIS -- “No excuses.”
Almost every player in the Pacers locker room who spoke to the media uttered that cliche after Monday night’s 120-83 drumming courtesy of the Golden State Warriors.
Indiana played its second game in as many nights, doing so without injured forwards Paul George (ankle) and C.J. Miles (knee) for the same time span. Center Myles Turner joined his teammates on the bench after twisting his ankle during Sunday’s overtime win at Oklahoma City.
Reserve Kevin Seraphin returned from a bum knee, but made no difference. Ditto Rodney Stuckey’s team-high 21 points in his third game back from a hamstring injury. Glenn Robinson III and his black eye (thanks, Russell Westbrook) made his sixth start for the Pacers, but was woefully out of his league in a game in which he had to guard former MVP Kevin Durant.
The Pacers were depleted, fatigued, undermanned, outmatched and out of their league. It was so bad, Golden State handed Indiana its worst home loss in its NBA franchise history.
They had plenty of excuses.
But players and coach Nate McMillain didn’t dwell on excuses. They looked to the future. While they certainly recognized the circumstances of their demise, they were already eyeing Wednesday’s home contest against Atlanta.
“We’ll certainly move forward from this,” McMillain said. “Tonight, going up against these guys, we didn’t have it. It seemed like our legs were gone. We couldn’t keep up with them. They picked us apart tonight. Any time you go up against a team like Golden State, you need to be healthy and want to be healthy.”
Right. Because what was there to learn tonight? The outcome only reaffirmed the obvious. Good team is good. Hurt team is hurt.
And Indiana only got more hurt. Point guard Jeff Teague left the third quarter with an ankle injury, finishing with 11 points and making just five of his 14 field goal attempts. Teague could have returned but was held out because the game was already out of hand. He said he expects to play Wednesday.
With the number of healthy wing players declining drastically, does McMillan, a former guard who played 12 seasons for the Seattle SuperSonics (R.I.P.) want to suit up for this team? I asked McMillan, but he didn’t go for the punchline. He played it straight, per usual, and indicated Turner would return to the floor Wednesday as well.
- Phil Taylor
“There’s going to be times throughout the season where guys are going to go down, guys are going to come back, guys are going to go down,” forward Thaddeus Young said. “It’s just one of those things where it happens throughout the season, and we just have to be ready.”
The Pacers were obviously not ready. But I suspect that even if George, Miles and Turner had suited up instead of wearing suits, this game wouldn’t have ended much differently. Maybe they don’t lose by a historic 37-point margin, but Monday’s game was always supposed to be a loss. Team’s typically falter on the second night of a back-to-back, especially when the first game runs into overtime.
But aside from the logistics of the schedule, this is still a Pacers team looking to mesh in a number of areas -- specifically on defense and finding ways to overcome the limitations of their redundant roster. Meanwhile, the Warriors sport the best offense in the league, has won eight straight and are rounding into the juggernaut many expected them to be upon signing of Kevin Durant in the off-season.
Monday’s blowout win was an imperfect summation of Golden State’s offensive capabilities, but was a potent display nonetheless. Although they shot just 36 percent from long range -- guards Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 6-of-16 -- the Warriors reached 120 points the old-fashioned way: off-ball movement, assembly line passing and easy looks at the rim.
As for the Pacers, they reverted to isolation ball, often trying to beat Golden State one-on-one and hoisting a number of quick shots. While the Warriors racked up 31 assists to 12 turnovers, Indiana collected just 13 and 11.
It was bad, yes. But this was to be expected given recent events. Does any player in any sport take the field of play expecting a loss? On most nights, probably not.
But for this occasion, I’m willing to go easy on the Pacers. Lord knows Golden State didn’t.