Larry Bird thinks Pacers need to be ‘mentally tougher’
The Indiana Pacers find themselves down 2-0 after succumbing to the Boston Celtics’ late-game heroics in two straight games games. Larry Bird has watched his former organization give up fourth quarter leads to its first-round opponents in two straight games, something he says comes down to mental toughness.
“The main thing is they’ve got to be mentally tougher,” Bird told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullen. “If you’re gonna have a meltdown, you’ve got to stick together. You can’t b**ch at the referees. You gotta get back after a miss. Every possession is so huge in the playoffs.”
Bird admitted the Pacers are fighting an uphill battle without their star and leading scorer Victor Oladipo, relying on role players to have excellent games to have a chance to come out on top.
“Obviously when Victor (Oladipo) went down, it changed everything,” said Bird. “I thought we could match last year’s victory total, and even after we lost him, we did that. The way these guys rallied was amazing. Kevin Pritchard and Nate (McMillan) have done a great job with them.
“They’re well-coached, and when they lose, they fight back and find a way to win. That’s who they are.”
Indiana showed incredible mental fortitude once Oladipo went down, managing to stay in the middle of the playoff picture despite losing their leading scorer.