The Pacers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, but it was an elite defense that carried them that far.
Offensively, things were much rougher in Indiana, where the team finished just 22nd in points per 100 possessions.
Things are likely to be even worse this year, after the Pacers lost their two top playmakers in Paul George (injury) and Lance Stephenson (free agency). And due to injuries, this preseason hasn’t provided the customary time for the team to figure things out.
The latest came Tuesday night to George Hill, who left with a knee injury and did not return.
David West did not make the trip. Rodney Stuckey did not play. C.J. Watson did not change out of his warm-up suit. And later in the night, George Hill left the game, his left knee swelling, to pile on the team’s woes during a preseason that has produced more injury reports than traces of promising play.
“It takes time,” center Roy Hibbert said. “Especially with guys out, it’s going to take even more time.”
Hill, whose knee crashed to the floor while he was tied for the team high with 14 points, will “take it day to day,” as coach Frank Vogel described. However, the Pacers are running out of days to figure out their familiarity with one another and the system. So even missing three starters, plus the top backup point guard on Thursday – the final game on the team’s preseason schedule – could be a possibility, the Pacers don’t have the choice to sit down and heal up. They have too much to fix before Oct. 29, the regular-season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Indiana has played with a lot of effort and fire during the preseason, but that only gets you so far. Most projections have the Pacers finishing out of the playoff picture in the East, and trying to overcome a slow start due to dealing with so many injuries is only going to make it that much tougher to prove the pundits wrong.