Like Raymond, Everybody Loves the Pacers

Even if it is to be expected after the Pacers big win last night, this is pretty weird: everyone is talking about Indiana basketball. And there is nary a one who isn’t singing its praises.

Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook wrote a wonderful break down of Indy’s final bucket last night. We pick it up midway through with Pruiti discussing Roy Hibbert’s decision to slip the screen. (There is video and telestrator work if you click through.)

Hibbert sees what is going on and just forgets about setting the screen and runs straight to the rim.  This is fantastic awareness by Hibbert, he sees nobody is responsible for him and just tries to get to an open space.

Pau Gasol is a little late in noticing Hibbert’s cut to the rim, and he is trailing behind the play.  The Pacers’ terrific floor balance also plays a role here since the Pacers are so spread out that it puts the Lakers in a tough position.  Stay with your man or help out.

Both Kobe and Odom decide to stay with their men (Rush & Posey) and not help defend Hibbert.  This allows Hibbert to get an easy dunk on Gasol.

Dexter Fishmore is upset with how his Lakers played last night but concedes that, last night anyway, the Pacers were simply the better team, especially on the defensive end.

Indiana earned this W. They competed with hustle and smarts. They defended extremely well and with impressive discipline. The Lakers managed only a point per possession, their worst output of the year, and it felt like every point they scored was an uphill struggle. If you watched the game, how many Laker baskets do you remember that resulted from Pacer defensive breakdowns? For me, the answer is zero. These guys stuck to their assignments, stayed in front of their men, rotated when necessary and challenged seemingly every shot.

Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie knows the Pacers are good — but how good?

I’m here to tell you that Indiana’s 8-7 record is a mirage.

Because they’re actually better than 8-7.

I don’t know how much better, because properly finishing close games still has some value in this league, but this team’s point differential is eighth in the NBA, ahead of teams in Utah, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Portland, Denver, and Atlanta. And point differential, not win/loss records, has long been the most telling statistic when it comes to ranking teams. You might not like the idea of the Pacers playing as this league’s eighth-best team over the first five weeks of the season, but points are points.

ESPN’s J.A. Adande got Roy to talk about how he improved this offseason.

He’s noticeably leaner and much more effective, thanks to a summer in which, “I watched every calorie I ate, I did MMA trainer, pumped my knees and everything like that,” Hibbert said. “I cut down from 14 percent body fat to 8. I’m at 250 [pounds] right now. I started out at 275. I just feel like I’m moving better and I’m not a big stiff.”

Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold was thoroughly impressed by Roy last night.

it all started with Hibbert.  The Pacers run an offense that takes a lot of action from UCLA’s classic high post sets while also incorporating principles of the Flex and the Princeton offense.  They run a lot of motion, screens, and back cuts and Hibbert does a lot of initiating from the high post where he picks out cutters or takes his own (much improved) jumper from about 18 feet.  And when he wasn’t operating from the high post, he was doing damage from the low block by hitting his jump hook from both the right block and the from the middle with relative ease.  When Hibbert didn’t have the ball in his hands he was setting good screens to free up his mates for dribble penetration or curls into open space where they could get up good shots.  It’s easy to see why he’s the early leading candidate for most improved player as he’s taken on a heavy burden for his team and really stepped up in a variety of areas to improve them on both sides of the floor.

Mike Prada agrees with me — and Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows — that the victory was more about the Pacers playing well than simply the Lakers having an off night.

The operative question to come out of last night’s surprising 95-92 Indiana Pacers victory over the Los Angeles Lakers is this: did Indiana take the game away from the Lakers, or did Los Angeles give it away with poor play.

Naturally, it depends on your perspective. For my money, it looked like the former. The Lakers certainly could and should have played better, but I think their poor play occurred in large part due to Indiana’s defensive intensity and offensive execution.

Mike Wells is starting to think this team is playoff-bound.

I heard from several people after the Pacers beat the Heat in Miami last week.

“I need to see them do it more once for me to start believing in them,” one person said. “Besides, the Heat aren’t as good as people think.”

I think it’s about time that this person and whoever else doesn’t believe in the Pacers to change their tune.

Hey, I’m the same person who said they would have a difficult time making the playoffs.

The Pacers continue to gradually change my thought about their playoff chances as each game passes (I still say they have to stay relatively healthy).

And, oh yeah — Wells is also reporting that one other guy you might have heard of thinks the Pacers are pretty good, too.

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Tags: Darius Soriano Dexter Fishmore J.A. Adande Kelly Dwyer Los Angeles Lakers Mike Prada Mike Wells Roy Hibbert Sebastian Pruiti

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