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Pacers winning when it counts the leastPosted Wednesday, March 24, 2010, at 1:40 PM
To be perfectly honest, I am a bit conflicted when it comes to my Indiana Pacers these days.
Back in October, I was hoping to be worried about playoff tiebreakers come late March and early April. But that turned out to be a nightmare instead of a dream.
This has been one of the most disappointing seasons, in my opinion, in recent memory. I can accept losing when a team is bad, but there is no way this team, injuries or not, shouldn't be near .500 and in a fight for a playoff spot.
Because of this, I virtually gave up on this season. I started dreaming about a top three or four pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
But just when I counted on having a good chance at a top pick, the Pacers start winning. They have won 4 of 5 overall and have five straight victories at home, including Sunday's 121-101 victory over the talented and sizzling Oklahoma City Thunder, who had an 18-4 record in their last 22 games.
The Pacers led the Thunder, a team vying for as high as the No. 4 seed and a possible homecourt playoff series in the opening round, by as many as 31 points.
Kevin Durant, one of the top scorers in the league, only managed 16 points on 4 of 16 shooting Sunday.
As Vince Lombardi is famous for saying in old NFL clips, "What the hell is going on out there."
As of Monday, New Jersey, who still needs three victories in its final 13 games to eclipse the dubious record of 9-73 set by the 1972-73 76ers for futility, will have the best chance to secure the top pick in this year's lottery.
Minnesota has 56 losses which would place the Timberwolves second in the lottery sweepstakes.
Golden State currently has lost 50 times this year and would have the third-best chance to secure a spot in the derby for Kentucky point guard John Wall.
Washington and Detroit would be next with 47 losses, but the Wizards have lost 11 in a row entering Wednesday's game at Conseco.
The Pacers swept the season series from the Pistons 4-0, including a 106-102 victory against Motown Gang Friday at Conseco Fieldhouse and another meaningless 98-83 win at Detroit Tuesday night.
But as the Pacers are now a game back in the quest (I didn't say their quest, just mine) for a higher position in the draft, I can't help but wonder if those three wins will cost us a chance at somebody like Evan Turner of Ohio State, if he declares.
In the past, I would love to have beat down the Pistons, but not here, not now.
We have the same number of losses as Philadelphia and Sacramento. All I can say about that is go 76ers and go Kings as well as the Clippers, a team that has lost two fewer games than us.
The Pacers, who have twice ended up with the second pick in the draft, usually have no lottery luck. The infamous bent corner (on the cards in the hopper) led to the Knicks getting Patrick Ewing in 1985. Three years later, the No. 2 pick led to the Pacers getting Rik Smits, who probably was a better pick than No. 1 selection Danny Manning turned out to be.
It may be considered sacrilegious to root against your team to win, but I am bitter. We were minutes away from a 6-1 start, can anyone remember back then, and a six-game winning streak when we blew a 17-or-18 point lead in the fourth quarter against the Knicks at home.
The Pacers proceeded to lose 19 of the next 23, including that setback to the Knicks, and the season was essentially over by the end of December.
Don't get me wrong, I am still optimistic about the future of the Pacers. The first thing they should do is get rid of coach Jim O'Brien and sent him to Florida with next year's salary as a retirement gift.
Maybe Byron Scott would come back to the Blue and Gold as a coach.
I appreciate his professionalism and effort. The injuries were not his fault, but the Pacers regressed this year with more talent. Last year's team competed every night, but this year's team has lost as many games by double figures as anybody in the league.
When the season slipped away, rookie A.J. Price should have been the starting point guard. The rookie from UConn played in all 17 games in January and scored over nine points and dished out over two assists in almost 20 minutes per night. He proved he can run an NBA team.
Josh McRoberts is another young player with athletic ability and talent that needs to see the court more. He has played in just 31 of 70 games.
Second-year players Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert should have been playing 35-40 minutes a night to see if they are going to be players or not. I still think both will be, especially Hibbert, who has worked his way to scoring over 11 points and almost six rebounds per game this season.
Last year's No. 1 pick Tyler Hansbrough will hopefully overcome his inner ear infection/concussion and come back ready to pick up where he left off (8.5 ppg and 4.8 rpg). He was consistently scoring in double figures and often grabbing double-digit rebounds before his mystery illness sidelined him.
Hibbert scored 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting with eight rebounds and three assists against OKC. Rush hit for 15, making 6 of 10 shots in the same game.
I know that better days are ahead, I just hope they are not this season.
B.J. Hargis is the sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext 12 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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