Feel the Rush!
"The attitude the last game-and-a-half has been completely different. In practices and shootarounds guys are talking and asking questions. When you hear everybody tell you you're supposed to be in the Finals or win a championship, you've got to remind yourself that you've got to go out there and make it happen. Because San Antonio won the championship doesn't mean they're going to be in the Finals the next year. They have to go through that whole process again. For us, we have more to prove."
Perhaps caught up in the hype of their high expectations, possibly believing the headlines, the Pacers hit a major flat spot with consecutive losses in Milwaukee and Charlotte. The former was staggering in its swiftness; after controlling most of the game, the Pacers blew an eight-point lead in the final minute. The latter was mind-numbing in its thoroughness; the Pacers were blown out by 32 points by a Bobcats team missing three key players including leading scorer Gerald Wallace.
Since then, the team has gone back to basics. The first step toward recovery has been to re-establish the commitment to defense. The second was to regain lost offensive efficiency. The last two games, while offering little in the way of dominance, have given evidence the players now understand their priorities.
The Pacers pulled played strong second halves in beating both Charlotte and Houston at home. The victories came despite an offense that averaged just 89.0 points and 41.7 percent shooting.
"The last two games, we've gotten better," said Coach Rick Carlisle. "The important thing is to keep improving. When you have a situation like the game in Charlotte when you really take a step back, it's disappointing. But you reflect and what it comes down to for us is when we defend at a high level, we put ourselves in a strong position to win. … Those two areas (defense and turnovers) really tell the story for us."
"It ain't going to happen all at once," said O'Neal after the Pacers dealt with Houston, 85-74, Sunday in Conseco Fieldhouse. "Everybody has to get better. Everybody that does what they do at their occupation doesn't get to be the best without putting in the work and putting in the time. That's really where our team is. We're not the best overall team right now, collectively, but we feel like we're getting better."