I am not in denial.
After receiving some heat when pointing out the sloppiness of the Pacers after their opening night win over Toronto, I have watched three more games and have seen zero improvement in the chemistry/taking-care-of-the-ball department.
Four games is a very small sample size, but in those four games the Pacers, as a team, are averaging 20.3 turnovers a game compared to only 17.0 assists per game.
Compare that to last season, which saw the Pacers average only 14.0 turnovers a game and 18.6 assists per game, and it is a bit troubling.
Although, last night in San Antonio, the starters were not much better, the bench, which was supposed to be an improvement, has been really bad.
DJ Augustin is shooting an abysmal .238 from the floor and has not gotten his teammates the open looks he should be getting them.
Ian Mahinmi has shown poor hands when catching entry passes.
Sam Young, while bringing solid defense, is not a real threat to score on the offensive end.
Miles Plumlee has shown nothing in the preseason or his limited playing time to make anybody waver from the widely-believed idea that he was drafted way too high.
Lance Stephenson and Tyler Hansbrough, the holdover reserves from last season's team, have been the best players off the bench so far through one week.
While the assist/turnover ratio is troubling, not everything can be learned from the numbers. The Pacers have failed to pass the eye test throughout their first four games.
They have looked very uncomfortable and confused at times. There have been too many bad fall-away shots on offense and too many poor rotations on defense.
Let everybody talk about how things will work themselves out and the Pacers will return to being a top team in the East.
Sure, the Spurs loss, while a blow out, was acceptable since it was in San Antonio, and as the Pacers TV announcing team of Quinn Buckner and Chris Denari very insightfully pointed out during the broadcast, the Spurs needed that win before embarking on a long road trip.
The Spurs are one of the best teams in the NBA. The Raptors, Bobcats and Kings are not (although the Raptors are not last season's Raptors). Those three games resulted in a two point win, a one point loss and a double OT win by the Pacers for their home opener.
There still is no news on how long Danny Granger will be out. The hope is that he will being stability to both the first and second units, and give the Pacers some defensive toughness and scoring they are sorely lacking.
One a scale of one to ten, with one being "not worried at all, Indiana will still have home court in the first round," and 10 being "Let's blow this up, we overpayed Hibbert and Hill, screwed up trading Collison, drafting Plumlee and not being more aggressive pursuing OJ Mayo," I am at about a 3.5 right now.
The Pacers still have 78 games to figure things out. With David West in the lineup, I am not too worried about the Pacers not toughening up mentally and physically with or without Granger.
The problem is that the Pacers schedule is not kind to them this month, with 12 of their first 18 games away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse. They have had trouble on both the offensive and defensive end, and the East is suddenly very much improved.
The Heat and Celtics are all but penciled in as top-four seeds. The Knicks look very good. The Nets will be in the playoffs. The Bulls will play good enough defense to be one of the best eight teams in the East. Cleveland and Milwaukee look like exciting teams who are playing good. Atlanta has Al Horford and Josh Smith. And, finally, Toronto is vastly improved.
That is nine teams who could push for the playoffs, making the Pacers the tenth legitimate contender for the eight spots.
Milwaukee, Cleveland and Toronto will likely not all make the playoffs, but one or two of those teams seem like the type that will finish with about 42-46 wins and surprise everybody.
In other words, the Pacers need to not mess around too much in this early season. They can not afford to continue playing lesser talented teams to the final possession each game, while being blown out by the elite teams.
To continue with the wishful thinking, it would be beneficial for the Pacers to have Paul George step up as a number one option, while Roy Hibbert continues to assert himself inside like he did prior to the quiet game last night, and that Granger is given good news and can return in the next couple weeks.
A win tomorrow night would push my panic meter back down to about a two. But for now, until the Pacers show some sort of offensive chemistry and ball movement, (and I don't mean movement into the other team's hands), it will remain about a three and a half.
Four games is an extremely small sample size, I grant you that, but can anybody tell me the Pacers looked this discombobulated at any point last season?
With or without Granger, improvement is needed, and quickly, if the Pacers plan on winning enough games to be a top four seed in the East.
It may be November, but these wins and losses still count come April.
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