For about 11 minutes last night, it looked like it might be a game. The Pacers were playing relatively well, and the home crowd, fresh off of witnessing their boys in green brutalized by Memphis, were starting to get antsy.
Any concern they may have had proved unnecessary.
Last night’s game ended with 44 seconds left in the first quarter. When a turnover led to a Nate Robinson three a mere four seconds after a Marquis Daniels jumper made it a 6-point Celtic lead, you could just see the Pacers crumple. Sure, they played the next 37 minutes, mostly just to torture me, but the game was over.
This was the 26th double digit loss this season, the third most in Pacer NBA History. They could very well catch #2 on the list (1986 with 28) by the end of this upcoming week. About three weeks ago, I asked if this was the worst Pacer team ever. Well, they certainly seem committed to achieving that distinction. They’ve won 2 of the 12 games since that post: one fun one against Chicago and one against a Philadelphia team with more dysfunction than the Pacers.
On top of that, one of the few areas that seemed to at least be heading in the right direction proved to be a false positive. Jared and I have spent most of this season focusing on the Charlie-Foxtrot that is the Pacer offense. Rightfully so, but the dazzling crapulence at that end caused me to get a little bit casual on the other end. The overall statistical improvement and a few anecdotal losses where the defense would have been good enough to win if the offense had even just managed to be below average made me think it was improve. Still not good, but improved.
However, what defense there may have been has clearly left the building. In six games played during March, the Pacers’ Defensive Rating has ballooned to 114.8. More importantly, I was looking at some trends over the course of the season, and I discovered something both rare and nauseating. Amazingly, I could quantify attention span.
The chart you’re looking at here shows the progression of the points both scored and allowed per 100 possessions over the course of the game. The red line is points allowed, or Defensive Rating, while the blue line is points scored , or Offensive Rating. While not 100% conclusive, looking at this indicates to me that the Pacers are actually worse at everything than their overall numbers would tell you. In other words, the Pacers fall behind early (trailing after 1st quarter in 42 of 65 games), and, as the other team lets up (loses interest), the numbers get better.
Another piece of circumstantial evidence that would support this conclusion would be looking at the fourth quarter results, particularly at the defensive end. The Defensive Rating for each of the first three quarters are 112, 107, and 106, respectively. In fourth quarters, it drops (“improves”) to less than 102. Further parsing this information shows you that the Pacers have entered the fourth quarter trailing by double digits 25 times. I don’t have the data for last night’s game, but in the first 24 instances, they posted a Defensive Rating of just under 95. Over the course of the season, those meaningless fourth quarters shave a full point per 100 possessions off the Pacers defense.
So, it could be argued that the Pacers appear to be a statistically average defensive team, rather than a poor one, for the simple reason that their opponent often doesn’t have to worry for long periods of the game.
Mark & Slick on the Mike
Some comments from last night’s game:
Slick: “I really want Josh to succeed, but he’s really going to have to develop some kind of offensive game to play in the NBA.”
Got a couple of three’s late, but Josh is still pretty much dunk-or-bust. He got completely stuffed by Glen Davis in the first half on a dunk attempt, but I thought it looked like he was going to miss the dunk anyway, as he was too far away from the rim and the block was basically at rim level.
Slick: “We’re down 20 points. I wanna see A.J. Price play the entire second half.”
Well, he played the entire fourth quarter, in addition to about four minutes in the second quarter. T.J. Ford left last night’s game with a groin injury and is doubtful for tomorrow’s game at Milwaukee. The Pacers are only 6 losses/wins by Toronto away from being eliminated from the playoffs…officially. Maybe we’ll see more Price, but I’m not holding my breath.
Mark: “It’s as if they don’t even know what strengths the players they’re playing against have.”
This comment was made after Nate Robinson made his 42nd unguarded three last night. OK. Maybe it was just his fifth, but, really, what’s the difference? The basic point was that the Pacers were playing some of their worst defense of the season last night, and Mark and Slick were both pretty disgusted.
Slick “Some nights Danny gets on it at the defensive end, other nights he just as no interest in it.”
It’s true, Danny. You need to figure out who you’re going to be. I said it last week – this year is a warning. Take it to heart.
Mark on Dahntay “He just hasn’t been able to do (defend) what he was brought here to do.”
Slick on Dahntay “When the ball gets to him, the offense stops” then, “At the defensive end, let’s face it, he’s overrated.”
This isn’t the first time that Mark and Slick have basically come out and said that Dahntay is not a very good defender. This was a subject of conversation in the Nuggets game. When the Pacers signed Jones, I thought he would be a 15-20 minute a night bench player. I didn’t think he was a great defensive player, maybe not even a good one, but he was going to be an upgrade on who we had. He’s been better offensively than I though, but basically, he’s been way more important than he should be. This is one of the reasons that the Pacers are so bad.
They also commented on Brandon Rush and his “consistency,” which merited one of those silences where you can actually hear Slick rolling his eyes and shaking his head. Additionally, you could hear Mark Boyle’s eyebrows go up when Jim O’Brien substituted Troy Murphy instead of Solomon Jones when McRoberts fouled out with just 45 seconds left. It certainly appears that Solo’s year is over.
And Now for Something Completely Different
There really is only one bright spot this season for the Pacers, and that’s Roy Hibbert. His development has been very strong, and he’s well ahead of where I thought he’d be at this point. He seems to have defeated his first bottleneck – fouling – and now will have to continue to develop his overall game. Last night, he scored 23 points, including an impressive 14-point third quarter. He’s smart, works hard, and seems to be a genuinely good guy. I doubt that he’ll ever be a consistently dominating big man, but he certainly looks like a solid starting NBA center to me.
Seems self-explanatory to me.