There’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching your favorite team hit a last second shot to tie or win a game. The same can be said when that same shot is waved off.
The Indiana faithful had to come to grips with all of these emotions after Solomon Hill drained a three pointer moments after the buzzer had gone of in the Pacers 102-99 loss to the Raptors. Just a few hundreds of a second earlier and the game would have went into overtime.
This was a complete collapse from Indiana, who led much of the way off of the strength of Paul George. George has been the best two way player of these playoffs. He finished last night with 39 points, eight rebounds and 8 assists. The Pacers were 15 points better than the Raptors when he was on the court.
Indiana was moving the ball well and finding open looks from the corners in the first half, and went into halftime with an 11 point lead. The offense bogged down to a crawl in the second half. The Pacers offense scored just 38 points, and the torrential downfall of threes in the first two periods (11-17) slowed down to a sprinkle in the final two (2-12).
It was DeMar DeRozan who kept the game within reach for the Raptors. DeRozan has been off and on all series but was aggressive in game five, getting to the free throw line early and often and finishing at the rim at a much higher rate than games 1-4. The Raptors needed everyone of DDR’s 34 points in this one.
Kyle Lowry was not his usual self, shooting just 3-11. He was able to make a couple of big plays on defense late in the game.
Norman Powell came up big in the Raptors comeback – playing good defense, including a steal and thunderous dunk that capped of a 17-2 run that tied the game up in the fourth.
I feel bad watching Paul George try to drag this team to wins night after night. The Pacers bench unit is the worst I’ve seen out of all of the playoff teams this year. The only player that I would take off of this team besides George is Myles Turner, the seven foot tall rookie who has shown nice range and an ability to make great passes out of the high post. The rest of this roster is not suited to make a deep playoff run.
I’m getting really tired of watching Monta Ellis make five or six terrible decisions from the point guard spot, Ellis can at this point is nothing but a streaky scorer who is not consistent enough with his shot to justify his bad defense and poor decision making.
Rodney Stuckey has never been a great player, but he is currently shooting just north of 30 percent from the field, and is missing an unacceptable amount of shots from point blank range for Indiana.
Then there’s the case of Ty Lawson, a player who was much talked about when Houston brought him on last offseason to be a key piece in the Rockets run-back to the Western Conference finals. Well – that did not work out for anyone involved. Lawson never found his place on that Rockets’ blown up chemistry experiment. Since coming to the Pacers he has been relegated mostly to third man duties at point guard and his averaging just two points in 11.6 minutes in this series.
This all to say that Paul George deserves better. The former ALL NBA player is under contract with the Pacers for two more years, and has a player option for the 2018/2019 season. I have no doubt that George will continue to add to his game in the next couple of years, but I would hate to see all that talent wasted on a team that has no sense of identity.
Let’s hope that the Pacers front office can get at least one more championship caliber player around him so we can watch one of the leagues best players get out of the first round, because this team is not going anywhere until they do.
Speaking of teams that are not going anywhere, anytime soon – news broke yesterday that Blake Griffin will miss the rest of playoffs.
Griffin was noticeably in pain at the end of game four, it obvious that he was not fully ready to come back from his quadricep injury. Blake was averaging just 38% from the field in the first round, and there has not been the same kind of crazy athleticism in his game.
There is very little change that a Clippers team without Chris Paul or Blake Griffin can get past the Trail Blazers, to say nothing of the Warriors – Curry or no Curry.
There’s a very good chance that the Clippers break up this team in the post season. Griffin is owed a little over $20 million next year and has a player option for 2017/18, but LA was able to play at a really high level without Blake in the regular season and we all know about the baggage the All Star has with the team.
Of all the pieces the Clippers have to move, Griffin is clearly the most enticing. Blake is only 27 years old, and when he is healthy there are few power forwards who are better. Even though Griffin doesn’t hit a lot of threes, a growing necessity for big men in the league, his passing and mid-range game are more than enough to make him capable of being the second best player on a championship team.
The problem with Blake Griffin, when it comes to way this Clippers team in constructed, is that they already have a max player who can not hit threes and spends a lot of time clogging up the lane in DeAndre Jordan. Both players work best when they are featured in the pick-and-roll with Chris Paul, and both are too good to want to come off of the bench. DeAndre Jordan is $40 million over the next two years, and that is a hefty contract to move for a guy whose free throw shooting at the end of games is so bad that he is unplayable.
There’s a lot to be said about keeping a strong contender together, even if they are not one of the best two teams in the league. When Stephen Curry went down with his injury it looked as if the Clippers were finally going to have their shot at making a real title run, but with the injuries to Paul and Griffin I feel like their windows has slammed shut.
I could be wrong. The Clips could run this team back next year, but this has the feel of a organization that needs to shake things up.