INDIANAPOLIS – The dysfunction around the Indiana Pacers is building, and the losing is continuing.
Wednesday night saw both of those things come to a head as tempers flared between Pacers players and coaches, and the team got handled by the Kings, losing 104-93.
Both teams missed key guys on Wednesday, but the Kings (despite playing on a road back-to-back) looked like the team much more in a playoff picture than the Pacers.
Behind 24 first-half points by Marvin Bagley III, the Kings (29-37) built a lead that grew to 17 points entering the fourth quarter.
Indiana never really challenged in the final period.
Playing again without Malcolm Brogdon, the Pacers (30-35) committed 22 turnovers, with both Aaron Holiday and T.J. McConnell struggling to handle the ball.
Domantas Sabonis led the Paces with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists. Caris LeVert had 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting.
Nate Bjorkgren had both Kelan Martin (11 points on 5-of-9 shooting) and Cassius Stanley (3 points on 1-of-4 shooting) in the first-half rotation on Wednesday.
There are now 7 games left in the regular season for Indiana. A back-to-back awaits on Thursday night with Nate McMillan and the Hawks (37-30) coming to town.
Three Things Learned
1. Goga, Foster Get Into It: One moment in Wednesday’s third quarter summed up the state of the Pacers right now. You had Goga Bitadze, yes Goga Bitadze, telling Pacers assistant coach Greg Foster to ‘sit the f*** down’ after making a three-pointer. Foster was originally yelling at Bitadze for allowing a dunk on the previous possession. At the ensuing timeout, Foster tried to go after Bitadze and several players (Jeremy Lamb, Myles Turner, T.J. McConnell and Malcolm Brogdon) all took turns at intervening. Here was a case where a second-year rotational player thought he could tell his assistant coach to ‘sit the f*** down.’ Under what circumstance is that acceptable behavior? The moment was equally hysterical and pathetic to watch unfold.
2. Point Guard Shuffling: With Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring) still sidelined on Wednesday night, Aaron Holiday actually got a chance to slide into the starting lineup. That didn’t go well with Holiday shooting 2-of-9 from the floor and committing 5 turnovers (had 4 assists). For the game, Indiana had 22 turnovers, with even T.J. McConnell having 4 TOs in 23 minutes of action. Indiana has tried to give Caris LeVert some run at the point guard spot, but he’s definitely better suited off the ball. With the offseason nearing, the Pacers must look long and hard at the point guard future. Is Brogdon really the best answer there for a couple more seasons? Or should they look to get him off the ball?
3. Bjorkgren’s Future: As the Pacers were about to hit the sack late on Tuesday night, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped a bomb about the uncertain future of Nate Bjorkgren as the head coach of the Pacers. If the Pacers decided to dump Bjorkgren (thus paying two coaches in consecutive seasons), it would be the first time in the nearly 40-year history of the Simon family owning the Pacers that they fired a coach after one season. Has Bjorkgren made mistakes in his first season as an NBA head coach? Unquestionably. But you have to acknowledge that he’s been given a terrible hand injury wise, not to mention being a first-time head coach in a COVID-plagued season. We can save this debate for the offseason, but it looks like the Pacers (and/or Bjorkgren) will have some very important decisions to make, again.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-Hawks (Thursday, 5/6 at 8:00 PM)
-Wizards (Saturday, 5/8 at 7:00 PM)
-@Cavaliers (Monday, 5/10 at 7:30 PM)
-76ers (Tuesday, 5/11 at 8:00 PM)
-Bucks (Thursday, 5/13 at 7:00 PM)
Eastern Conference Playoff Picture
1. 76ers (45-21, .682)
2. Nets (43-23, .652)
3. Bucks (42-24, .636)
4. Knicks (37-29, .561)
5. Hawks (37-30, .552)
6. Celtics (35-31, .530)
7. Heat (35-31, .530)
8. Hornets (32-33, .492)
9. Pacers (30-35, .462)
10. Wizards (30-36, .455)
Outside Looking In
11. Bulls (27-39, .409)
12. Raptors (26-39, .400)