The Indiana Pacers are the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, but a tough loss has Paul George questioning whether his team is built for a playoff push.
“There’s no urgency, no sense of urgency, no winning pride,” George said following the team’s 115-114 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night. “This locker room is just not pissed off enough.”
George’s comments came after the team lost following a controversial foul call that sent Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio to the free throw line, where he made all three attempts to provide the final margin.
“We should have a professional approach, man, and defend our home court, especially to a team that’s not even in the playoffs,” said George, who finished with a team-high 37 points against Minnesota. “That’s what it comes down to. As a team, we’ve got to have a grit, and we’ve got to own up, man up.”
Every game counts for the Pacers, who at 37-37 are a game behind the fifth-place Atlanta Hawks (38-36) but just two games ahead of the ninth-place Chicago Bulls (35-39).
“At this point in the season, you don’t have games like this, being up four with under a minute and letting an opponent come in and beat you, especially a young team,” George said. “You don’t give that up. It’s a very frustrating loss.”
The home defeat comes ahead of a three-game road trip for the club that starts Wednesday night in Memphis and continues against two teams ahead of Indiana in the East standings: the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers.
“It’s tough losing a game here that we need, knowing that we don’t play well on the road,” George said. “When we lose focus here, I’m not sure where our head is going to be as a team tomorrow. I’ll make sure to gather these guys around and let them understand, man, that we’ve got to win. That’s the only thing that’s important. The only thing that should be motivational is winning.”
“Winning” is clearly the word George is focused on going forward, but he used a different word to describe his feelings on Tuesday night.
“Pissed,” George said. “I know I was pissed. It’s the only [way] to really sum it up.”