Pulse of the NBA

The Sports NetworkApril 2, 2014 

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Indiana Pacers have never been an offensive juggernaut, but their recent struggles have put them in jeopardy of failing to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and it makes you wonder if they are a serious title contender.

The Pacers are 6-10 over their last 16 games, and their inability to put the ball in the basket is the big reason why they've played so poorly.

During this stretch, they've failed to reach the 90-point mark nine times and haven't scored at least 80 points on five occasions (five of their last six games).

Over the last 16 games, Indiana is averaging 88.1 points per game, and it's just 82.8 points in their last 10 losses.

To put the Pacers' offensive ineptitude into perspective, consider the fact the Chicago Bulls are the lowest-scoring team in the league at 93.1 ppg.

Even before this downslide, the Pacers weren't as efficient offensively as they had been for a good part of the season, and a lot of their core players have seen their production drop off significantly and an in-season addition hasn't given them the boost they had hoped for last month.

Let's take a closer look at each culprit:

PAUL GEORGE

The two-time All-Star was in the MVP conversation early in the season, but he hasn't been the same player in 2014.

Prior to the new year, George averaged 23.5 ppg and shot 47.1 percent from the floor connected on 40.1 percent of his 3-point attempts. Since then, his scoring average has dropped to 20.4 points and his shooting percentages have plummeted. He's hitting just 39.4 percent from the field and 33 percent from downtown.

During this 6-10 stretch, George has played his worst basketball of the season, averaging only 18 ppg, while shooting a miserable 36.3 percent from the floor and 29.2 percent from long range.

ROY HIBBERT

The Pacers center was selected to his second All-Star game this season, but hasn't played anywhere near that level since the calendar turned over to 2014. Since then, Hibbert is averaging 10.3 points and shooting 43.2 percent from the floor after averaging 12.6 points and shooting 48.5 percent prior to that.

March was clearly his worst month of the season as Hibbert put up just 9.7 ppg and shot 42.2 percent from the floor. Even his work off the boards took a precipitous drop as he pulled down just 4.6 rebounds per game.

After Monday's loss to the San Antonio Spurs, which knocked the Pacers out of the potential top spot in the East, Hibbert didn't hold back his true feelings about the situation.

"Good for them (the Miami Heat, who are battling for the top seed). We don't deserve it," Hibbert said.

Hibbert also did some finger pointing after last Friday's loss to the Washington Wizards.

"Some selfish dudes in here," Hibbert said after getting eight shots in the Pacers' 13-point loss. "Some selfish dudes. I'm tired of talking about it. We've been talking about it for a month."

He doesn't doubt the effort, but he has problems with the way the Pacers are executing their offense.

"We play hard, but we've got to move the ball," Hibbert said. "Is it obvious, or what? I don't know whatever our assist ratio, or whatever it is, is in the league, but it probably isn't up there. I'm really trying hard not to spaz out right now, but I don't know. We've been talking about it for a month. I'm not handling the rock. I don't know. I've made suggestions before and we do it for, like, one game, and then we revert back to what we are. I don't know. I'm not the one to answer that question. It directly affects me and the bigs.

"We're just out there and it makes us look bad."

GEORGE HILL

March also was not kind to the Pacers point guard. He had his lowest-scoring and worst-shooting month of the season as he averaged 9.5 points and shot 39.6 percent from the floor and 34 percent from 3-point range.

Prior to that, he was averaging 10.9 points on 46.1 percent from the field and 38 percent on 3-point attempts.

The frustration may be building up for Hill as he reportedly got into a verbal confrontation with Lance Stephenson on the bench during a timeout in the second half of Monday's loss to the Spurs and they had to be separated by teammates.

EVAN TURNER

The 6-foot-7 swingman hasn't given the Pacers the boost they had hoped for since acquiring him from Philadelphia at the trade deadline.

With the Sixers, Turner averaged 17.4 points in just under 35 minutes per game. With the Pacers, he's putting up only seven points per game in just over 20 minutes.

After scoring in double digits in two of his first three games with Indiana, Turner has reached that mark only two times over the last 17. Plus, he's had nine games since joining the Pacers when he scored no more than four points, including three games in which he went scoreless.

And he's really disappeared in recent weeks, averaging four points and shooting 30 percent from the field over nine games.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Even when the Pacers were playing really well, I still didn't think they were good enough to beat the Heat in the playoffs. Now it looks like they won't even give Miami as tough a time as they did last season, and maybe there's the possibility they won't even get the opportunity and will get eliminated before the Eastern Conference finals.

QUICK DRIBBLES

I wouldn't be surprised if Ricky Rubio has nightmares prior to playing against Chris Paul. In Monday's Los Angeles Clippers' win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Paul had 22 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and three steals, while Rubio was just 1-of-6 from the field and finished with three points, seven assists and five turnovers. In seven career matchups against the Clippers point guard, Rubio is averaging 3.6 points and shooting 20 percent from the field.

The Memphis Grizzlies are battling for one of the final Western Conference playoff spots, but their efforts are being hindered by their rookie coach David Joerger. He still has Tayshaun Prince in the starting lineup and giving him nearly 26 minutes a game despite the evidence Prince has been washed up for quite some time. He's no longer a good defender and all he can do on offense is take open jump shots, which aren't falling anymore. Prince is averaging only 5.9 points while shooting 40.3 percent from the floor and 29.2 percent from downtown. Simply put, this is really bad coaching by Joerger, and if the Grizzlies happen to make the playoffs, he could cost his team a series by foolishly giving Prince so much playing time.

The Brooklyn Nets set a franchise record Tuesday night with their 14th straight home win as they beat the Houston Rockets for the first time in 11 years on their home court. Jason Kidd's team has been tremendously efficient on offense during the streak and seem to score with great ease. During this stretch, the Nets are averaging nearly 105 points per game and have been on fire from the floor, hitting 51.8 percent of their shots and just over 40 percent of their 3-pointers.

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