It began with so much promise, both the Pacers and the Colts on the road to face traditional rivals. Though both were underdogs, neither was overwhelmingly so.
The Pacers were coming off an encouraging 20-point home blowout of Dallas Friday, while the Colts were riding a four-game winning streak into Foxboro, or Foxborough, otherwise known as “The Town that Doesn’t Know How to Spell its Own Name.”
Even the scheduling was perfect, with the Pacers and the Knicks on at Noon, leaving a nice little nap gap before the Colts and Patriots had their 4:30 kickoff.
What we got was far from what we wanted. What we got, in fact, was an early turkey day, and not the kind that leaves you feeling thankful.
Pacers-Knicks: Everything new is old again
Just when we thought it was safe to feel good about the Pacers again, they reverted to the flat-footed, listless team that slogged through the first nine games. That new offensive philosophy that Frank Vogel installed before the Dallas game, resulting in 103 points and a quality win, was nowhere in evidence.
The Pacers shot 26 percent in the first half (3 of 16 in the second quarter), fell behind by 11 and never challenged in an 88-76 loss.
All the cutting and passing in the world won’t matter if Vogel can’t find a way to get Roy Hibbert untracked. He was 3-of-10 against the Knicks; in the last eight games he’s 27 of 85 (31.8 percent) while averaging 7.6 points.
Without any inside presence to speak of, the Pacers were compelled to jack up perimeter shots. They hit a respectable number from the arc (8 of 20) but many of those came in a flurry after the outcome was decided.
They also committed 19 turnovers and allowed 15 offensive boards to the worst rebounding team in the league, thus the Knicks won by double figures despite shooting 36.7 percent. They didn’t need efficiency because they had volume, attempting 19 more shots than the Pacers.
They also had a go-to guy, Carmelo Anthony, who wasn’t great but was good enough, scoring 26 with nine rebounds.
“We just have to figure out as a unit how we can get more offensive looks and get rolling a little bit better and something has to change,” said George Hill. “It’s not working.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Colts-Patriots: Not ready for prime time
For a game that started so well, it couldn’t have ended much worse.
The Colts opened with touchdown drives of 80 and 84 yards, owning the line of scrimmage with the running game while Andrew Luck was nearly perfect. After two possessions, they had a 14-7 lead and the delightfully obnoxious Patriots fans were booing their defense.
Then the defense got a stop, the Colts got the ball back and … it all went straight to hell.
The theory is keeping Tom Brady off the field is the best way to beat the Patriots. Well, the Colts kept Brady off the field for more than 32 minutes of real time and still managed to give up two touchdowns, fall behind and never recover on their way to a 59-24 thrashing.
First came Julian Edelman’s 68-yard punt return. Then came Aqib Talib’s 69-yard interception return. Once Brady got back on the field, he showed why that’s such a bad thing for the opposition, tossing three touchdown passes and racking up 331 yards.
Luck, on the other hand, looked like a man on an island – surrounded by cannibals. The most deceiving stat of the day showed Luck being sacked just once. He was hit a half-dozen times, harried a handful more and wound up throwing three interceptions – two returned for scores – and losing a fumble the led to another touchdown.
As good as he has been at home, Luck has been vulnerable on the road, tossing 10 interceptions and losing five fumbles in five games. He does have the tendency to press, but that tends to be exacerbated when the offensive line escorts the pass-rushers to his doorstep rather than kicking them off the porch.
Though the Colts ran for 119 yards, 57 of those came in the first quarter. Thereafter, not so much, putting all of the pressure on the passing game. The Colts are 2-4 when Luck attempts at least 40 passes, and he put it up 50 times Sunday.
And a defense that looked encouraging against lightweights like the Browns, Jaguars, Titans and Dolphins got a reality check against Brady and Co.
At least the Colts are still 6-4 and in the thick of the playoff hunt.
The Pacers are 4-7 and running in quicksand.
Submit a question to Conrad Brunner and he just might answer it as part of “Bruno’s Mailbag,” on his new show, “Above the Rim,” which next airs Friday at 7 p.m. You can also follow @1070Bruno on Twitter