(Lance Stephenson by Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)
This was going to be the year that the Pacers slayed the king (and The King). Indiana was taking the normal path young teams take to a championship – take your licks for a few years in the playoffs, learn from your defeats, then come back the next year a better team. Michael Jordan‘s Bulls were pushed around by the Pistons for years before they finally conquered their bully. It was thought that the Pacers were going to do the same this year, after being booted out of the playoffs the past two years by their tormentor, Miami. Despite a late season swoon, Indiana had the best record in the East this year and felt that the home court advantage would help them beat the Heat. Then the wheels fell off.
It’s not the fact that Indiana is losing on the court that is so disturbing – it’s what they are saying off the court that should be a matter of consternation for Pacer fans. Roy Hibbert‘s disappearing act has been well documented over the past few months, and shows a serious lack of mental toughness and/or motivation on his part. Now, after last night’s Game 4 in which he was held scoreless (again), he is passive-aggressively blaming his coach for his horrible game (guess Frank Vogel wanted him to pick up four fouls and only block one shot).
Paul George is claiming that the Pacers outplayed the Heat last night, despite the fact that Miami’s lead ballooned to 23 points midway through the fourth quarter. Both his team’s dismal performances in the past two games are due to the referees being biased, according to Indiana’s supposed leader.
Lance Stephenson thought it would be a good idea to get into a trash talking war with the greatest player in the game, LeBron James, to try to get into his head. James proceeded to beat Stephenson in every aspect of the game, as he pretty much has done all series long.
Lame excuses, infighting, trash talking without backing it up, finger pointing – all signs that a team has been beat mentally. Now it’s only a matter of time before Indiana is beat for good on the court, too.