Granted, it was only one loss. But the fact Indiana's hideous 102-82 setback came in Game 1 of its first-round series against the Celtics did not seem to bode well.
The Pacers will be going against the tide, historically speaking. Indiana never has won a playoff series in which it dropped the first game, going 0-13 all-time.
"We've got to bounce back from the thrashing we took," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said yesterday at the FleetCenter, where his team had wrapped up practice for Game 2 tonight at 7. "With everything we've been through this year, a tough loss in one playoff game isn't going to be something that derails us. I just don't see that."
In an attempt to break their Game 1 curse, the Pacers might want to channel the 1982 Philadelphia 76ers, who came to Boston and dropped a 121-81 stinkbomb in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Boston Garden and rebounded by winning the next three games, beginning with a 121-113 victory in Game 2.
The Sixers dropped Games 5 and 6 before winning Game 7 to take the series, 4-3.
An omen, perhaps? "I'm sure we're going to come back and play better," Carlisle vowed. "I'm sure our guys have a lot of pride."
Carlisle said the Pacers' pride wasn't the only thing that took a beating Saturday. "We've got some guys banged up," he said. "Jermaine [O'Neal] took a shot to his [right] shoulder. Dale [Davis] got hit on his left shoulder. Freddy [Jones's] hand, he's got a fracture in his hand and that's always sore. There's some other guys banged up, but, you know what, that's just part of the deal. We just got to get through it." . . . Carlisle acknowledged that Raef LaFrentz's 3-point range (he hit 5 of 5 Saturday night) seemed to pose some defensive problems for his big men, O'Neal and Davis. "It's a different situation for Jermaine and Dale, because they're not used to guarding guys on the 3-point line," Carlisle said. "In terms of awareness, those guys are going to have to understand that when they run back, defensively, the second guy back is going to have to go to the 3-point line and find [Antoine] Walker or LaFrentz. We're certainly going to have to do a better job than Game 1." . . . Although it was encouraging to see Jamaal Tinsley launching 3-pointers at practice, Carlisle wasn't holding out any hope that his injured guard (left foot) would be ready this series. "It's very doubtful," the coach said. "He's not going to play the first four or five games, no matter what." . . . Reggie Miller, who was held to one field goal (seven attempts), said one key to a Pacer turnaround would be to set better screens. "We have to execute better, especially against a team that's going to deny and going to pressure us as much as possible." The Celtics forced 22 Indiana turnovers, resulting in 27 Boston points. Another concern: controlling the tempo. "Well, we had the tempo for one quarter," Miller said. "But we've got to play 48 minutes like that and we've got to find a way to slow them down. If it's a turtle game, then it's going to be a turtle game. We've got to find a way to make them play our way because we can't afford to get into a windshield-wiper game."