The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Pro Sports

April 28, 2014

Pacers turn focus to consistency against Hawks

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana coach Frank Vogel got tough on his players Saturday, and the Pacers responded with a gritty, series-tying win at Atlanta.

Now comes the hard part: Figuring out how to get this team to play with the same edge for a second straight game, something the Pacers haven't done in almost two months.

So with the swing game in this best-of-seven series looming, Vogel made a clear effort to get his players' attention with a short, simple, stark reminder about what the Hawks have already done this month.

"Look, this team won two of the last three games we've played in this building and they beat us pretty good," Vogel said less than 24 hours after Indiana evened the first-round series at 2-2. "So we have to stay hungry."

That hasn't been easy lately.

For months, all the Pacers could talk about was clinching home-court advantage in the playoffs. But after jumping to a 33-8 first-half record, they've only reverted to that first-half form when they've needed to win big games.

It's been more than a month since the Pacers' starters have strung together consecutive wins, a span in which they've had to contend with all sorts of questions, rumors and innuendo about what led to their freefall. Critics openly wondered whether this would go down as the worst collapse in NBA history and whether the Pacers would be remembered as the worst No. 1 seed ever.

Through it all, Vogel preached the power of positive thinking.

By Saturday morning's shoot around, Vogel knew his team needed more than a pat on the back — they needed a jolt out of the blue.

"I was like what? He was barking at everybody, even if you had a decent game," Lance Stephenson said of Vogel's shockingly fiery critique. "I think we needed that."

But if the top seed in the East is going to chasing its ultimate goal, ending Miami's three-year run as Eastern Conference champs, they need to do more than play well once in a while or only when their coach steps out of character.

The motivation to get this fixed is obvious. Win Monday night and the Pacers would lead 3-2 and have control of the series for the first time. Lose and they'll go back to Atlanta, where the Pacers have won only three times since December 2006, facing elimination.

"We can't be complacent just because we got home-court advantage back," All-Star starter Paul George said, referring to the fact they gave it away with an embarrassing loss in Game 1. "We've got to put this game and this series away."

Atlanta, the No. 8 seed, has not allowed the Pacers to do anything of the sort.

Instead, the Hawks have challenged Indiana at every turn with a spread offense and an array of 3-point shooters that has essentially nullified Indiana's biggest advantage — its size and proficiency in the paint. The mismatches have forced Vogel to go with smaller lineups and prompted the move of George, one of the league's top wing defenders, to slow down Hawks point guard Jeff Teague.

Indiana has won two of three since making the changes, taking away a golden opportunity for Atlanta to take a 3-1 lead. But the Hawks are confident they can regain their mojo in Indy, where the Pacers have been virtually unbeatable to any team except the Hawks. Atlanta is 2-2 in Indy this season, the only team in the league to beat Indiana on its home court twice.

"We'd all feel better if it was 3-1 and we maintained home-court advantage," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said during a conference call Sunday. "That's what you're playing for and when you go out to compete, that's your ultimate goal."

Atlanta did not make its players available Sunday, and Budenholzer did not discuss what changes, if any, he would make Monday night.

The Pacers, meanwhile, see this as an opportunity to reassert themselves and rediscover their winning formula.

"We did talk about how the first team to win two games in a row usually wins the series," Vogel said. "We've got an opportunity to do that tomorrow night."

 

1
Text Only
Pro Sports
  • SPT - HB0722 - Stuckey art Pacers face uphill battle after signing Stuckey Last week, the Indiana Pacers lost Lance Stephenson. On Monday, they replaced one of the NBA's best young players with shooting guard Rodney Stuckey.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • news_shellysterling.jpg Lawyer says Clippers sale could miss deadline

    A lawyer for the man offering to buy the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion says Donald Sterling's stalling tactics are threatening to doom the sale by pushing it past a contractual deadline.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPT - HB0717 - Colts Camp Colts set to host ESPN during training camp ESPN is coming to Anderson University. "The Worldwide Leader in Sports" will set up shop on campus during Indianapolis Colts training camp on July 28. Reporter Bob Holtzman and analyst Jeff Saturday, who started 188 games at center for the Colts from 1999 through 2011, are scheduled to be on hand.

    July 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Lebron's Decision Basketball [Duplicate] Pacers face new challenges in Central Division The road to another Eastern Conference final just got a whole lot tougher for the Indiana Pacers.

    July 14, 2014 2 Photos

  • SPT - HB0713 - TY 2 Rising star Hilton excited about future T.Y. Hilton surveyed the Lawrence North High School football field covered with more than 200 campers working in small groups with more than 30 area high school coaches Saturday morning and smiled.

    July 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • LeBrons Decision Cleveland Basketball [Duplicate] James makes Cavs better, now East more wide open A word of caution to anyone anointing the Cleveland Cavaliers as the NBA favorites. Yes, the Cavaliers are going to be good, no doubt. It's impossible not to be with the game's best player. But even LeBron James knows Cleveland has a lot of work to do.

    July 12, 2014 4 Photos

  • SPT - HB0712 - Brazill art Colts waive suspended WR Brazill The Indianapolis Colts announced Friday they have waived wide receiver LaVon Brazill. The news comes just a little more than one week after the 2012 sixth-round draft pick was suspended for a second time for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • LeBron's Decision Basketball-3 [Duplicate] LeBron James returns to Cavs: 'I'm coming home' If LeBron James was going to win another NBA title, heal broken hearts and continue building his legacy, he knew there was only one place to go. To Ohio. Home.

    July 11, 2014 6 Photos

  • SPT - HB0712 - Lance Stephenson Pacers fill holes as they wait on Stephenson The Pacers couldn't keep waiting around for Lance Stephenson to make up his mind. So on Friday, they went to work. The two-time Eastern Conference runner-ups announced they had signed three free agents — backup big man Lavoy Allen, swingman C.J. Miles and Damjan Rudez, a sharp-shooting forward from Europe.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPT - HB0711 - Lind photo 3 Lind's mom helps get to bottom of foot injury Kathy Lind didn't need any special medical training to tell her something wasn't right with her son.

    July 10, 2014 3 Photos