INDIANAPOLIS – In an answer to a simple question, the supernatural was introduced.
That’s not what Paul George thought he would be discussing in reference to the Pacers’ home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs. But after six games on the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, what was expected and what’s happening are two different things.
“I think it’s a curse,” said George while cracking a smile. “Us wanting to be home so bad that now we don’t play well here.”
Now this wasn’t like a Cubs or even a past Red Sox curse, but certainly something is a bit different about the Pacers in the postseason when they play at home as opposed to the regular season. Their 35-6 record then was the best in all the NBA and was a big reason why the team was able to capture the No. 1 seed in the East.
But now in the playoffs the Pacers are quite pedestrian at home. In six home playoff games they have a 3-3 record and have been dealt some less that honorable defeats. Against the Hawks the Pacers lost a Game 1 in which they trailed by as many as 20 and a Game 5 where they were down by as many as 30 points–contests where only late rallies kept the finals a little more respectable.
Tuesday was the ugliest. Facing the Wizards in a potential closeout Game 5 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers put up a dud like never before in these playoffs. They allowed Washington to grab a team opponent record 62 rebounds while they got just 23 in another game in which the deficit grew to as many as 30 points.
In the end it finished up a 23-point defeat for Indiana–leaving players searching for answers as to why they struggle on their own court.
“Yes,” said head coach Frank Vogel when asked if he’s surprised at why the team has struggled at home.
When asked for any theories to why, Vogel said, “None.”
Center Roy Hibbert wasn’t sure what is going on with the team either at home, considering their strong play during the regular season. Like the rest of the team, Hibbert saw a drop off from two strong games in Washington as he scored just four points and grabbed two rebounds in the loss.
“I have no idea,” said Hibbert when asked what was wrong with the team on the road. “We just wanna win.”
Game 6 might provide that opportunity if the Pacers’ unusual playoff rhythm continues on Thursday night. During this postseason the Pacers have won four of their five road games with the wins all coming in a row after a loss in Game 3 to the Hawks in the first round. That’s also a change from the regular season where Indiana’s 21-20 road record was middle-of-the-road in the NBA.
George says a big reason for the team’s improved play on the road may be the oft-clichéd “Us-Against-The-World” mentality, which aided the Pacers in a pair of wins over the Wizards at the Verizon Center last week.
“When we know our backs are against the wall, when we know it’s just us out there, it brings us closer for whatever reason,” said George of playing on the road. “We play with energy and we feed off the other crowd.”
Though they’d like to be able to do that from their own gallery, too.