March 21, 2015

Paul George couldn't make sense of it. With an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth and playing against a team resting most of its starters, Indiana laid an egg in a performance that just won't cut it during the postseason.

The Pacers still control their own destiny, though, and can secure a playoff spot with a win at home Sunday night, but another dud against the lowly Brooklyn Nets certainly won't be tolerated.

Indiana (42-37) fell into eighth in the Eastern Conference after Friday's 111-98 loss to Toronto, which elected not to play Luis Scola or All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. It was mostly reserves carrying the Raptors, who shot 54.4 percent from the floor and 45.5 from 3-point range.

The Pacers came in allowing opponents to shoot an average of 44 percent and leading the NBA in 3-point defense at 33.1. Allowing undermanned Toronto to shoot so well - especially after Indiana beat East-leading Cleveland 123-109 on Wednesday - didn't sit well with George.

"When we think as a group we're making progress and progressing as a team, to have a letdown like (Friday), it's frustrating," he said after the Pacers had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Monta Ellis scored 17 points and George added 14 for the Pacers, who will face either the Raptors or Cavaliers in the first round. They trail Detroit by one-half game for the seventh spot, and coach Frank Vogel realizes his team needs to play much better considering the competition awaiting in the playoffs.

"It doesn't really matter who we're playing," Vogel said. "We didn't play well enough. We weren't sharp in any area. We wouldn't beat anyone (Friday)."

Indiana didn't play well enough to beat Brooklyn (21-58) in the last meeting, either. The Nets shot 54.5 percent from the field - the third-highest percentage the Pacers have allowed this season - as six players scored in double figures.

Brooklyn has lost seven straight since that win by an average of 18.6 points, though, and has dropped 11 in a row on the road.

The Pacers will play a second straight game against a team sitting out its best players as interim coach Tony Brown has elected to shut down his top duo of Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young with an eye on the future.

Wayne Ellington scored 21, Thomas Robinson had 16 and 17 rebounds and Sean Kilpatrick added 16 points off the bench in Friday's 113-99 loss at Charlotte. Brown especially was impressed with Robinson, who is averaging 15.3 points and 13 rebounds over his last six.

Robinson, playing for his fifth team since being drafted fifth overall by Sacramento in 2012, averages 4.9 points and the same amount of rebounds in his career. He didn't play in the last meeting with the Pacers, who have won three of the last four matchups in Indianapolis.

"He's got a great motor," Brown said of Robinson, who had a career-best 12 offensive boards. "He plays hard when he's out there. He's always on the glass on both ends of the floor. He's putting himself in positions where he can finish around the rim or get fouled. He's been very productive with his minutes, showing people he belongs in the league."

George scored 27 points in the last matchup, but he's shooting just 38.9 percent while committing 15 turnovers in the three meetings this season.

You May Like