Pondering the Pacers: Pacers have room for improvement

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The Pacers lost their home opener on Wednesday night to the Detroit Pistons. It was a close game, as the final margin was 119-110. However, there were some concerns that I had before the start of the season that popped up in Wednesday’s game. 


For starters, Andre Drummond completely pantsed the Pacers big men: 


Drummond finished the game with 32 points, 23 rebounds, three steals, and four blocks. He was uber physical with Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis all game, using his physicality to shove that pair from under the basket for the whole of the game. I have to say, Drummond also seemed to have paint defense on lockdown, better than his reputation would have it seem.  

The defense also really struggled in this game, allowing the Pistons to make 11 of their 24 attempts from beyond the arc and to get to the line 33 times. Drummond, a noted poor free throw shooter, made 8 eight of his ten foul shots, while Derrick Rose, a player not known for his proclivity for drawing fouls, made it to the line seven times himself. 

Here are some examples of Detroit getting wide open shots:


Here, Doug McDermott gives Luke Kennard so much space that Kennard is able to pump fake McDermott out of his shoes, and drains the three. 


Even though the Pistons missed on this play, the fact that the Pacers were scrambling is a bad sign in itself. The ball swings effectively around the perimeter, and the Pistons are in an excellent position to get penetration on more than just that play.


Another miss, but the three was very open and Markieff Morris should have converted this try. The Pistons ran picks involving both Sabonis and Turner, and this was my main area of concern going into the season. Sabonis is on the elbow, and Morris gets an open elbow three from the other side of the court.


In crunch time, the Pacers allow penetration from Rose, which they appear to have contained. Rose goes up for his signature jump pass, however, and he finds his old Chicago teammate Tony Snell with about ten feet of space, wide open. He understandably drains the shot straight away.


So allow me to explain: a Spain pick and roll is when there seems to be a traditional pick and roll, but then another player screens the screener’s defender. The Pistons ran this play to perfection: Kennard screens Turner, who is guarding the main pick and roll, but Kennard’s man Edmond Sumner is containing Rose after the pick is set. Kennard takes advantage of the defense’s confusion to splash his fifth three pointer of the night. To say the 3-point defense was the only issue would be ignoring issues that were had on that end.


Rose was just playing with Turner in this game. He flambeed him on defense and made him look ridiculous. To me, Rose is still a top notch scorer.


Here is Rose doing it to Turner again, with him coming off a double pindown and tricking Turner by going up for the floater.


Drummond gets behind Sabonis and catches an easy lob. Offensively, there were some challenges as well:


I don't even know what is going on in this play. Turner in this play is the embodiment of “when you try your best but you don’t succeed.”


I am not sure if Jeremy Lamb is trying to draw a foul, or if he is trying to finish the layup. In any case, he fails in both respects because it was just a terrible looking shot. I have my doubts about Lamb as a scorer, but I will get to promising things I saw from him in a bit.


Probably the biggest gut punch from crunchtime: Sabonis has a wide open three, and just air mailed it. He needs to at least hit rim, because they were only down five at the time, but it felt like the wind came out of the sails of the Pacers attack.


Sabonis and Turner actually played well together in this game on offense. Turner finished with 25 points and nine boards, while Sabonis had 27 points with 13 boards. Sabonis brought some much needed rebounding to the starting five, and Turner’s rim protection was a key component in keeping the game close. 

To me the biggest plus from the game was Malcolm Brogdon. He finished with 22 points, 11 assists, and 11 free throw attempts. He calmed all my doubts about him being able to run the Pacers offense, and helped the offense run smoothly.





These two plays are plays I would run for Lamb. I like him coming off screens for open mid-range jump shots, and would actually like Sabonis to set screens for him. Additionally, Brogdon sets him up perfectly.


Brogdon throws a pass I did not know he was capable of making. When I saw this, I knew he would be okay playing point guard.


Brogdon shows off his impressive perimeter defense on this possession.


This was a great way for Brogdon to leverage the pick and roll to get a floater, and he was good running pick and roll this whole game. All in all, this season will be up and down for the Pacers. They are going to struggle to adapt to their defensive scheme, and they will need to figure out Sabonis and Turner on that end. It is early though, and I believe they can figure it out.

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