James Harden torched the Pacers for 44 points in Houston’s Monday night victory, and while it was the eighth time he’s dropped more than 40 on someone this season, it was the continuation of an ongoing struggle for the Pacers.
The loss was Indiana’s sixth straight, and for a team that’s built its identity on the defensive end of the floor in recent seasons, that’s where the problems currently lie — ones Harden was simply able to further expose.
Roy Hibbert is the team’s anchor defensively, and gave some honest answers after this one about what exactly needs to be fixed.
[T]he Pacers are sliding because their defense is declining. On Saturday, they allowed the Brooklyn Nets to hit a 61.3 field-goal accuracy, the highest allowed by a Pacers team ever. The past five games, four opponents have reached the 100-point mark and over that stretch, the Pacers have averaged 22.2 personal fouls per game, seventh highest among their peers.
“I’m going to give you a real answer, not a (B.S.) answer,” Roy Hibbert said, before offering his opinion on what has been ailing the defense. “I think that sometimes we take the easy way out.
“In the years past, we’ve been able to earn no calls and get stops,” Hibbert continued, “and I think the easier way out has been to foul, myself included. I haven’t done a good job guarding my own man and sometimes my help rotation is not as good as it has been. Sometimes we foul and that’s what’s leading the guys to shoot a lot of free throws.”
Indiana is just a game out of the final playoff spot in the East, but it’s a crowded race that sees four teams separated by just a game-and-a-half in the standings.
The return of Paul George may be coming, which would certainly be a plus. But if the defensive cohesiveness doesn’t return as well, it’ll hardly make a difference.