- Teams: Detroit Pistons (22-34) at Indiana Pacers (33-21)
- Date: February 22, 2013
- Time: 7:00 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
After thrashing the New York Knicks by 34 points on Wednesday night, the Indiana Pacers earned a little bit of national attention for their performance. It’s well deserved, but actually a bit late.
The Pacers have the third best record in the Eastern Conference and are breathing down the Knickerbockers’ neck for the second seed in the east despite Danny Granger’s absence from the lineup this season.
Frank Vogel’s unit has won six-of-eight games in the month of February, and their lone two defeats came in overtime against a surging Brooklyn Nets team that has now won four games in a row and a Toronto Raptors squad that has won six-of-nine contests since acquiring Rudy Gay.
Indiana’s recent stretch of good basketball coincides with an increase in offensive production that has them looking like somewhat of a juggernaut. In their eight games this month, they are scoring 108.7 points per 100 possessions — if we remove the blowout victory over the Knicks, they still produce 106.8 points per 100 possession — per NBA.com’s advanced stats tool, which would be the third best mark in the Association.
It’s not a case of the Pacers defeating a bunch of matadors either. In this recent stretch, they’ve produced impressive showings against the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks; all of which are in the top 12 of defensive efficiency rankings this season.
Part of the reason Indy has thrived offensively as of late is due to Paul George’s emergence as a playmaker and David West’s willingness to capitalize off the newfound opportunities presented by his teammate.
The Pacers’ strength is their frontcourt and thus opponents and fans expect them to relentlessly pound the ball on the interior and force double teams and what have you.
Vogel does a good job of creating some misdirection plays where it looks as though the ball is supposed to go inside on the block, but in actuality he’s running a player off a screen on the weak side to catch and shoot or catch and drive.
In many instances, that player can be Paul George or George Hill, both of which are more than competent at attacking the paint off the dribble.
Make no mistake though, Indiana will do their damage on the interior.
On Jan. 30, the Pacers used Paul George on the interior to set some terrific screens for both David West and Roy Hibbert against the Detroit Pistons and it gave them fits.
Both of Indiana’s starting big men had opportunities to catch the ball on the move going to the basket, as a result of George’s screen setting, but Detroit players eventually got into trouble with their defensive assignments and double-teamed one player off the ball while the Pacers’ small forward broke free for an uncontested shot or dive to the basket.
It’s worth noting that Roy Hibbert and company own the best defense in the league. Believe it or not though, Greg Monroe shredded it the last time these two teams played.
Indeed, the Georgetown product was able to consistently get to his left hand against Hibbert to drive the ball to the hole, and he also victimized him on the low block with reverse pivots and pump fakes on his way to 18 points.
Indiana took control of the contest by simply ignoring weak side shooters and cutters to load up on the ball side. Vogel essentially came to the conclusion that the Pistons didn’t have the passers required to find the open players close to the basket on the weak side of the court and he was right. But that was before Jose Calderon joined the team.
In addition, Indy dared Detroit to beat them from deep by giving the Pistons players some open shots on the weak side of the floor, and Lawrence Frank’s group couldn’t make them pay as evidenced by their 3-for-18 shooting from 3-point range. Again, pre-Calderon.
Make no mistake though, the Pacers can be defeated.
Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum showed that Indiana has trouble containing penetration off the dribble from quick guards early in defensive possessions and that’s an area where Detroit will have to succeed to pull out this contest.
Also, sharing the basketball and cutting to the hoop will be important against a tough defense that will send Roy Hibbert no higher than the free throw line in pick-and-roll defense. If ball handlers can drive at the Pacers’ center and find cutters heading to the basket, it will give them an easy look at the rim with Hibbert out of the picture.
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Statistical support provided by NBA.com.