In 20 years of attending or covering Indiana Pacers games, I never left one with time still on the clock.
Until Monday night.
With five minutes remaining in the Pacers’ second-round Game 1 meeting with Washington, I hit the exit. I didn’t need to see the rest. I didn’t need to go to Frank Vogel’s postgame presser to hear the same thing I’ve heard a dozen times over the past couple months. I didn’t need to go to the locker room to listen to more of the same.
Indiana has now lost three of five home playoff contests. For a comparison, the 1994, ’95 and ’96 teams dropped four of a combined 18 home postseason games. Two of those were in ’96, one without Reggie Miller, and one in his red-goggled return from a fractured eye socket.
Those teams had pride in defending the home court. They fought and clawed together.
The more I watch it, I don’t know what this team is, other than being maddening beyond belief.
On Saturday, the Pacers’ Game 7 win over Atlanta saved the team from eternal embarrassment, as a loss would’ve led to thousands of free T-shirts and merciless boos raining down upon it. It was the kind of team basketball that pushed Indiana to a 40-11 start, and that’s been an infrequent occurrence since.
Roy Hibbert showed up for that game, but was an absolute joke on Monday. In the first minute of the second half, he picked up his fourth foul in what was the easiest call of the night, a blatant shove that screamed, “I don’t want to be out here.” The Double Nickel finished with a double goose egg in points and rebounds, in a horrific performance epitomizing his fall from All-Star to ridiculous punchline.