Here I’ll briefly discuss how the Pacers need to bounce back and win Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Playoff series with Orlando after a gut-wrenchingly disappointing loss in Game 1.
Watch for these five improvements Monday night:
1. Stop the three, stop the three, stop the three! Orlando wasn’t as good as they usually are behind the arc, but they
were good enough. Jason Richardson splashed 5 threes, including some crucial late game shots, to help the Magic eradicate the Pacers’ lead, and send the #3 seed away with its tail between its legs. Paul George looked skittish, and Danny Granger disinterested at times on defense. And it’s a blessing that Ryan Anderson, Orlando’s best offensive player, couldn’t get it going, or this might have been a double-digit loss.
2. Roy Hibbert. Hibbert has a huge size advantage over Glen Davis and the rest of the Magic bigs. He didn’t use it on offense last night. Davis continually muscled Hibbert out of position and kept Roy from ever finding a rhythm on offense. This sort of timidness is why Hibbert does not deserve a max contract this summer, and it’s what’s going to keep the Pacers from winning this very winnable series if it continues to be a problem.
3. Free Throws. Indiana, one of the best free throw shooting teams in the league, shot an uncharacteristic 13-22 from the charity stripe on Saturday. Don’t think Frank Vogel won’t address that in practice. The Pacers must get their confidence going and shake these early-series jitters.
4. Close out Down the Stretch. From consecutive missed (wide open) threes, to missed free throws, to a back-breaking traveling call, the Pacers were not themselves on offense. They must focus and regain their killer instinct, and fast.
5. Play with Confidence. Last night’s game was not lost by the same Pacers team that took the league by storm in the month of April, and finished out the year as one of the NBA’s hottest, toughest and most cohesive team. Orlando saw none of that in their unlikely victory. Monday’s game must not only be a victory, but an outright dismantling of an Orlando team that deserves no remaining confidence heading back home. The last thing the Pacers need now is an outclassed, injury-depleted #6 seed thinking they can pull of an upset after winning one, and even keeping another close. Monday’s game must be a double-digit win.