Raptors comeback reveals Pacers biggest weakness

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The Pacers were up ten with 2:27 left in the second quarter. What happened next was damning for Indy’s season. 

Pascal Siakam spearheaded the deadly Raptors press, which proceeded to not allow any points for the rest of the game, allowed one shot attempt, and forced four turnovers in that time span. Siakam and star point guard Kyle Lowry had their fingerprints all over the game, and the Pacers did not seem to know what to do with the press.




That press confounded the Pacers, who had played a practically perfect game up until that point. In the February 5th game against Toronto, the Pacers hit 19 threes, with Justin Holiday and Doug McDermott combining for 10-16 shooting behind the 3-point line. Domantas Sabonis did not play well, but he was making great passes, being patient and helping get those open looks. Siakam shot 7-18, and while the Pacers were allowing many open threes themselves, they did a good job of throwing bodies at Siakam and confusing him. Malcolm Brogdon once again proved himself as someone who kills the Raptors. 

The main issue that was exposed for the Pacers is that their size on the wings is lacking. People always refer to that Golden State dynasty as a ‘small’ team, but their wings were all 6-6 or taller, and Draymond Green has a ridiculous wingspan. The Pacers have height, but their wings in Jeremy Lamb, TJ Warren, and Justin Holiday (Siakam’s main matchup) are listed at 180, 220, and 180 pounds, respectively. For comparison, Malcolm Brogdon is listed at 229 pounds, and he is their starting point guard. Brogdon can do many things, but to ask him to try and contain bigger wings is not going to go well for you. 

Holiday was really no match for Siakam, nor was anything the Pacers threw at him. Yes, he shot 7-18, but he settled for four 3-pointers, and shot 6-14 on two pointers. Additionally, he got to the foul stripe 11 times, and he had five assists as well. Siakam is a more well-rounded player than the Pacers are equipped to deal with, and he tore them up. The play below was a miss, but Siakam’s pressure on the defense created that open shot to begin with.




On this play, Siakam kicks to Lowry after a pump fake. Lowry killed the Pacers to the effect of 32 points on 21 shots. 




Siakam was not a star until pretty recently, and as such he is still a great cutter. 




Justin Holiday is too small to try and contain Siakam, so this is going to be what happens every time.




Myles Turner could theoretically contain Siakam, but Siakam is too crafty, too quick, and Turner is better as a rim protector than as a one-on-one defender. 




Siakam takes it right into Sabonis’ chest and draws a foul. On a roster full of guys unequipped to guard Siakam, Sabonis might be the least equipped. I might rather have TJ McConnell try and check him than Sabonis.




And on defense, Siakam is an agent of chaos. He finished with 3 steals, and he’s good on the ball or off of it. Siakam is the rare player who is capable of roaming and playing safety on defense, or in the halfcourt you can stick him on opposing ball handlers or centers. This presents problems for the Pacers, as he can wreak havoc while Lowry and Fred VanVleet clean up the scraps. Marc Gasol, when healthy, is still a great defensive player who held Joel Embiid to zero field goals earlier in the season, and Serge Ibaka, who held Sabonis to seven field goal attempts all game, is a great defensive player as well.

The Pacers did a good job breaking down the defense for the game, getting 39 3-point attempts and putting in 19 of them. However, outside of Brogdon, none of the Pacers main stars could buy a bucket. Victor Oladipo, Sabonis, and Jeremy Lamb were a combined 11-30 from the floor, and while Sabonis got to the line, Lamb and Oladipo combined for 1-2 foul shooting. 

OG Anunoby got the steal, but Pascal made the action happen drawing the foul.




Pascal steals the ball after coming over for help.




So, is there any way the Pacers can not have a 6’6” wing guard this behemoth of a man? Well, the trade deadline came and went and nary a move was made by the Pacers. Marcus Morris, who would have been a perfect fit, never really had a chance to go to the Pacers as he appeared to be in the midst of a bidding war between the two LA teams. Morris would have been the best fit because he is a bigger wing who has a great 3-point percentage, and he brings more toughness to an already tough Indiana squad.

Two other players who would have been perfect for Indiana were Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Both of these players were in the last year of their contracts in Charlotte, and would have fit the Pacers like a glove. Williams, who is shooting 38% from behind the 3-point stripe, is also a great defender who the Pacers sorely need. Kidd-Gilchrist is the other side of the Williams coin, where he’s an incredible defender but someone who cannot shoot, even though he actually tried his hand at shooting this year, landing at 29% from behind the arc.

However, when these two were bought out of their contracts, Williams and Kidd-Gilchrist landed in Milwaukee and Dallas, respectively. Why did these two not go to the Pacers? Williams is completely understandable, as the Bucks are the Eastern Conference favorites, if not NBA Championship favorites. Kidd-Gilchrist going to Dallas fills a particular need for that team, and living in Dallas might appeal to a player more than living in Indianapolis. 

Are there any buyout players that would want to go to Indianapolis and help push the Pacers into Eastern Conference contender talk? Solomon Hill, who previously played for the Pacers, might make sense, but he only has had one real season as a good contributor on a team, and that was before he was a free agent. I can understand why players would not choose the Pacers on their free agency opportunities, as there are currently 12 teams that have a better record than them at the All-Star break. 

The Pacers are margins away from becoming a contender. The thing is, the margin just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and the team is not coming any closer to being a contender this season.

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