Divisional Battle: Indiana Pacers

Essentials

  • Teams: Indiana Pacers (12-11) at Detroit Pistons (7-18)
  • Date: December 15, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

After winning back-to-back games against the Cavaliers and 76ers at home, the Indiana Pacers will be coming to town to face off against a Pistons team that’s lost three in a row.

The Pacers have played their entire season without the services of Danny Granger, who has been sidelined with a knee injury. His absence has put a pretty huge spotlight on Paul George, who up until recently seemed to struggle with the burden of potentially becoming a leading scorer in some capacity.

The Fresno State product is the team’s second leading scorer, but has only shot 42.1 percent from the field this year.

Pacers fans might be disappointed with George’s output this season, but he has been lights out recently and has rewarded their faith in him. In his last five games, the 6’8’’ forward has been more aggressive in creating shots for himself and it’s translated into 23.2 points per game on 50 percent field goal shooting and 59.4 percent 3-point shooting.

What’s interesting about George’s impressive scoring recently is how it ties in with Roy Hibbert’s presence on the court. The former Hoya has been abysmal from the floor this season, converting only 37.5 percent of his field goal attempts, which hardly makes him a viable candidate to see consistent double teams.

But his size is a huge benefit to his teammates because of the amount of space that he clears with his ball screens. Consequently, defenders have to rotate and spend an extra second on the ball handler to ensure he does not get into the lane, and it opens up the perimeter. It’s worth noting that Indiana’s spacing isn’t always great, but Hibbert’s screening allows his teammates to get a plethora of open looks.

Indeed, according to NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, the Indiana Pacers score 86.3 points per game on 39.7 percent field goal shooting per 48 minutes with the Georgetown product on the bench, and 92.3 points per game on 43.1 percent field goal shooting per 48 minutes.

If we dig deeper and look at George’s numbers in conjunction with Hibbert, it paints a much clearer picture of the big man’s importance to the Pacers forward: NBA.com tells us that in 210 minutes played without the 7’2’’ center, George is converting 38.9 percent of his shots from the field, but in 607 minutes of shared court time, his accuracy improves to 44.1 percent from the field.

How big of a difference is that you ask?

Well in terms of efficiency, George is Luol Deng with Roy Hibbert on the court and Michael Beasley with him off it; which in truth sounds completely preposterous.

With that said, the Indiana Pacers are still a team that struggles to put up points on the board because of their occasional poor spacing but also because they lack the necessary high percentage shot creators other than perhaps David West.

For all the talk about how Hibbert provides some relief to the rest of the team offensively because of his screening, he was still tendered a fairly lucrative contract in the offseason because of his ability to clog the paint defensively and score on the low block last season.

His ability to change games defensively is still present, whereas whatever offensive skill he possessed last season seems to have taken the route of the Monstars from Space Jam. As ridiculous as that line sounds, according to Hoopdata, the Pacers’ starter is converting 42.1 percent of his shots directly at the rim this season.

For the sake of perspective, Allen Iverson’s worst shooting figure from the same distance came three years before he retired, when he converted 51 percent of his shots at the basket. Did I mention that the Answers was listed at a generous 6’0’’?

In a nutshell, these are some of issues that the Indiana Pacers have dealt with on the offensive side of the ball so far this season. It may behoove the Pistons to force Roy Hibbert to make multiple defensive rotations per possession to get him off the court to force Indiana to run their offense without the benefit of their best screener, which would undoubtedly make it tougher for them to score.

Read about the Pacers

8 points, 9 seconds.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

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