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Will we ever figure out what happened to the 2014 Pacers?

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Q: Will we ever figure out what happened to the 2014 Pacers? (Marc Stein)

It’s almost more fun NOT knowing. But I think we know. Here’s the pie-chart breakdown …

30 PERCENT: Pat Riley named it “The Disease of Me,” a chemistry-killing toxin that afflicts certain teams after they’ve hit it big. Once you start winning, everyone wants more money, more shots, more attention, more everything. What’s weird about the Pacers: This happened BEFORE they hit it big. It’s like they created a new strain called The Preemptive Disease of Me. But you know the nuts and bolts by now: Lance Stephenson thought he was an All-Star, Paul George thought he was a superstar, Danny Granger disappeared, the big guys stopped getting the ball … before you knew it, a selfless team started thinking selfishly.

20 PERCENT: Wore down because the starting five played too many minutes. In particular, George Hill looks dead tired and Hibbert actually might be dead.

10 PERCENT: No superstar scorer to stop the slide and say, “It’s OK, everybody, I got this.”

20 PERCENT: Actually, they had Lance Stephenson saying, “It’s OK, everybody, I got this.” And that’s even worse.

20 PERCENT: Are we sure they were ever that good? Last season, they won 49 games and had a plus-4 point differential in a lousy conference. They beat the Hawks in six and the Knicks in six, then took a tired Miami team to seven … and got blown out in Game 7. This year, they started out 16-1 with a cream puff schedule, won 33 of their first 40 against an East-heavy schedule, then stumbled to a 23-19 finish over their last 42. And as soon as they felt even a little adversity, they acted like Chris Christie right after the bridge scandal broke.

I’d say we overrated these guys except for one thing: From October 2011 through January 2013, Indiana’s starting five was consistently better than anyone else’s five. That was the single best thing about their team. It’s gone. And so is their chemistry. You know what was striking about last night’s Atlanta loss, other than that it’s absolutely unf’ingbelievable that THESE Pacers could blow a series to THESE Hawks? The Indiana guys look like they hate playing with each other — they’re interacting like divorced parents who just ran into each other at their son’s youth soccer game. It’s crazy. Yet another reason why I think I’m going to be drinking Bloody Marys in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day weekend. With extra horseradish.

Q: But seriously … has there ever been anything like this Pacers collapse? In NBA history?

Not even close. We’ve seen short-window collapses, but never a three-month-long WTF extravaganza like this one. The Pacers were 33-7. That’s a 67-win pace! If they blow this Atlanta series, they’ll be the first team mentioned anytime a really good NBA team goes into an inexplicable swoon. Basically, they’ll be to inexplicable swoons what the ’72 Lakers are to winning streaks, the ’80 Hawks are to cocaine and the ’02 Blazers are to jail.

Bonus points for the phrase "WTF extravaganza".

Also in this Grantland article: predicting a Heat-Wizards east final.

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