About three weeks ago, the Pacers handled the Heat despite Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, and Darren Collison combining to go 12-for-40 from the floor. They overcame that by playing stifling defense (82.6 DefRtg) and getting a 40-to-4 advantage in bench scoring.
A little over a week ago, the Pacers fell to the Suns after getting poor performances from Danny Granger (2-for-13), Roy Hibbert (4 fouls in 19 minutes), and Darren Collison (5 assists, 5 turnovers). Indiana was able to stay in it for most of the game – even lead large portions – primarily because of some strong three-point shooting and good defense – until both failed them in the fourth quarter.
Last night, the Pacers got handled by the Hawks as Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert combined to go 6-for-28 from the floor, and Darren Collison was virtually invisible. After falling behind by as many as 22 points, the Pacers cut it to seven with about 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter. However, the Pacers never really got to the point where either they or the Hawks believed the outcome was in question.
There are four things that I take from three games mentioned above:
- The Hawks are a terrible matchup for the Pacers. Mostly, it’s because we have no real strong answer for either Josh Smith or Al Horford, but it’s also because the guys the Hawks have around them – Bibby, Crawford, Williams – can all hit shots. In their win in Indy, the Hawks tortured the Pacers with jumpers. Last night, it was Horford putting Hibbert in his back pocket, effectively cutting off all oxygen to the Pacers’ offense. We should probably get used to this, because I don’t see it changing this year.
- The Pacers defense is for real. In these three games, the Pacers allowed only 98 points per 100. Their worst performance was allowing 107 per100 to Phoenix, and that was still well below their 112/100 average.
- The Pacers offense is not. In these three games, the Pacers scored only 96 per 100, including a paltry 88.7 last night.
- The Pacers “Big Three” – Danny, Roy, and Darren – isn’t what you’d call rock solid. This isn’t an outright condemnation of them – simply an acknowledgment of the basic realities of the situation. Danny has played very well this year, but primarily at the defensive end. Hibbert and Collison are still growing into their roles. This won’t necessarily hurt the Pacers against the increasing numbers of teams that are inferior to them, but it will be an issue against playoff teams. The purpose of having three good options is that you can go a different direction when one isn’t working. These three games show a disturbing trend where all three are off at the same time.
Truth be told, each of the last three games has been ugly. The Pacers came out of them with a 1-2 record, that probably should have flipped to 2-1 if they’d just started a little earlier against Milwaukee. However, this is the life of a .500 team. Their defense will give them a shot most nights, and that’s a pretty sizable change from the last three years. The gains will come in small increments, not large leaps, so be prepared.