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Why Haven’t Pacers Found Go-To Guy(s)?

Thursday, March 30, 2006
Conrad Brunner

Q. The Pacers have shown a worrying tendency of being unable to win close games. Perhaps the Pacers miss Reggie as the go-to-guy in clutch situations. Whatever the case may be, we better find clutch plays and players over the remaining regular season games, otherwise it will hurt us in the playoffs. Who will the player(s) be? (From Sudhan in Pune, India)

A. Five months and 70 games into the season, the Pacers are still searching for the right combination of players, and plays, to get them over the hump down the stretch. They've demonstrated time and again the ability to wipe out a sizeable deficit but have struggled mightily to close the deal. Last night's game in Atlanta crystallized the problem.

Peja Stojakovic was red-hot, making four 3-pointers to reduce an 11-point deficit to one. And yet, with the game on the line for one last possession, the ball went to Jermaine O'Neal – and not on the low post, where he's at his best, but 15 feet from the basket. Even so, rather than making a move toward the basket to either get a better shot or draw a foul, he attempted an off-balance fadeaway jumper that missed. Stojakovic was in the lane the whole time and did not break free outside.

Entering the season, the two players with reputations as clutch scorers were Stephen Jackson and Sarunas Jasikevicius. Jackson has battled injuries and inconsistency all season long and has not come up with much in the way of prime-time production. After a strong start, Jasikevicius has drifted out of the rotation entirely. Stojakovic has the limitless shooting range to be effective in those situations but, perhaps unfairly, did not bring a big-shot reputation with him from Sacramento.

The idea all along has been not to depend on one particular player but rather to use the threat of scorers all over the floor to get a quality shot. With Jackson and Stojakovic on the wings and O'Neal in the post, it is a sound theory with plenty of potential. But it hasn't worked out that way. And time is running short to develop a workable Plan B

Go PaCeRs!!!!!!
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