There was a mass exodus at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse at about the four-minute mark of last night’s game, right as the Pacers were clearing their bench en route to a blowout loss to San Antonio.  The fans that did stick around were booing their team – a squad that failed to score 80 points for the fifth time in six games, and concluded a disastrous March at 8-10

Pacers' fans reached their tipping point last night in another loss

Frank Vogel, who is never late, took his time getting to the postgame press conference.  In the locker room afterwards, players were despondent and on edge.  Everyone – fans, players, coaches, media – is asking the same questions, but failing to find answers: 

How did it come to this? 

How could a team that started 33-7 and looked like the class of the NBA for the season’s first half collapse so quickly and thoroughly?

Can this be fixed in the regular season’s final days?

The biggest issue is that there is no big, overwhelming issue, so there is no blanket answer.  Fans want to point to the chemistry being hurt by the Danny Granger trade, but the slide started before then, and their problems run a lot deeper than the departure of one bench player.  The Pacers are sinking because of a combination of many small issues.  Each starter has individually regressed.  The bench isn’t any better than the Green-Augustin-Hansbrough group that provided next to nothing last year.  They’re not defending at the same level they were earlier in the year, and they can’t score (a pathetic 77 ppg over their last six).  In-season acquisitions Evan Turner (mostly ineffective) and Andrew Bynum (hurt) haven't helped.  They certainly aren’t playing together – it’s hard to be a cohesive unit when your individual parts are pointing the finger at each other. Heck, you wonder if some are even playing as hard as they can.  Vogel's "All is Well!" attitude is going in one ear and out the other. In hindsight, maybe the Jimmy Kimmel Live! appearances, a GQ photo shoot, and Dove Men’s Care commercials did more harm than they did good. 

Each issue is slicing away at this team little by little.  This is death by paper-cut. 

The Pacers are bleeding out, and there’s no telling whether this group will be able to save themselves.  If they can't find answers, a team that at one point this season looked to be the best in the Pacers' NBA history will go down as the franchise's biggest disappointment.

DS