Working To Rediscover An Offensive Identity With the Pacers
The historical data says that sample size trumps everything, and that if the Pacers were a really good team for two thirds of the season, they’re probably a pretty good team. But again, this sort of slide for a playoff team is unprecedented and how Indiana fares in the playoffs might not fit the pattern of the past. Only two more weeks until these questions can begin to be answered.
Personally, I think it's a combination of several things. Some guys are just playing worse, across multiple areas. For example, Paul George is shooting worse, in part because he's taking some tougher shots. I've talked about this numerous times on the podcast, but his handle isn't good enough for him to "probe" the defense - instead he's much more effective, making quick, and decisive one or two-dribble moves. This over-dribbling isn't necessarily a s result of selfishness either. For a struggling offense, it's easy to imagine turning down a perfectly reasonable shot to "find a better one" even though the offense has already succeeded in creating what should be a good look.
On the other hand, as Mike Prada brilliantly broke down earlier this week, there have been some structural issues with the Indiana offense. Corners have been cut, screens aren't being set with the same effectiveness, cuts aren't executed with the same alacrity and so on. In a way, this turns to Pacers into the inverse of the San Antonio offense. When the Spurs really get humming, each possession takes a small defensive error and exploits it in a way to create even larger gaps. In a perfect mirror-image, the Pacers are allowing one missed screen or late pass to snowball into worse and worse looks and repeating. To this end, Vogel has exhorted his troops both in the media and on the sidelines (and one presumes in practice and shootarounds) to screen harder and cut more sharply.
Well, on the one game sample of facing Detroit, the message might be getting through, even if everything isn't perfect just yet.
Similarly, on the very next possession West does get a solid shot on Singler.
So, it was refreshing on Wednesday to see them run through some sets with multiple options which flowed somewhat naturally. For example:
So all is not yet fixed after one win, especially against a disastrous Detroit team. But signs are still evident the Pacers are beginning to play their way out of this offensive malaise. It might not be fixed this week, or even by the first round of the playoffs. But if Indiana continues to progress on some of these issues, and as I've been saying all along. They'll. Be. Fine.