Domantas Sabonis on what's gone wrong and must be corrected after 'just going through the motions'
An extended practice, calling each other up and a focus on the little things. The Pacers are bothered by their recent play. Now will they play like it?
The Pacers are angry, frustrated and disappointed. It wasn’t that they had just a bad quarter or an off night. It’s not a matter of shots not dropping or a blown defensive assignment. They’re talking about being ready from the start, playing tough and with energy.
Pacers center Domantas Sabonis spoke on Thursday after practice and his frustration was evident, both in his tone and body language, on a Zoom call 500 miles away in Toronto.
“I think it’s the little things — we’re not getting into guys, we’re not rebounding,” he explained. “Teams are getting offensive rebounds on us. All these little things matter; if you want to be a winning team, you got to do them. It’s affecting us.
“We’re just going through the motions, we’re not competing.”
Mr. Double-Double was held to nine points and eight rebounds in their loss Wednesday night against the Raptors, snapping a streak of 19 consecutive games with a double-double going back to last season. Strangely, he had as many turnovers (4) as field-goal attempts in 34 minutes.
They were swarming him and swiping at the ball. That’s too many turnovers and not nearly enough shots for the two-time All-Star.
He knew as well as all of us that the Raptors would be targeting him. They’ve crowded his area, sent multiple defenders and tried to minimize his impact. He’s the engine to the offense and when Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was asked about containing Sabonis before the game, he said they planned to try three or four different defenders on him. Whatever it took to slow him down.
“I think that a lot of it is can we limit his touches down there, can we get him a little less comfortable in the spaces that he’s catching it initially? … He’s really good using his power to get the space right back,” Nurse said.
Sabonis scored the Pacers’ first three baskets, all at the rim in the first five minutes. He had six points but was not heard from again offensively other than three free throws. His next (and last) shot would be on a drive to the basket early in the second half after faking a handoff. And he missed the bunny.
“They didn’t slow me down,” he asserted, “I think we just went away from what we’re doing. I’m trying to be aggressive, I’m trying to get open. They compact the paint a lot — that was their plan — but I feel like we just went away. We weren’t ourselves.