Huge and much-need win for the Pacers last night. While the elation of the final tip-in was wonderful, it’s hard not to think that it shouldn’t have come to that. Indiana played fantastic defense in the first quarter in particular and held New Orleans to 39.8% shooting for the game. They led by as much as 13 points in the first half and caught (or helped force … probably both) an off-night for all-world point guard Chris Paul.
Then things got increasingly sloppy and the increasingly bad play of Roy Hibbert (2 points on 1-for-10 shooting and 0-for-0 from the line, 3 rebounds and 3 turnovers in 24 minutes) started to make it look like the Pacers would lose. It just started to feel like Indy had blown too many opportunities to put away a team that wasn’t playing well. Someone was going to have to win this one, and the Pacers looked just as uninterested in doing so as the Hornets.
As it so often does, it came down to the end.
Neither team executed beautifully throughout the final two minutes, but each team made some big plays. In the video below, I’ve done a breakdown of the final six possessions, highlighting both the good and the bad points for the Pacers.
Here’s a complementary written breakdown from Tim Donahue on the pick-and-pop from CP3 and David West that put New Orleans up by 1 with 3 seconds to play.
The Hornets run that play better than anyone else in the league, and Paul and West are the best pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop combination in the game. They executed it perfectly.
Foster was staying in the lane, and West came all the way out the three-point line to set the pick. Ford tried to go under, but West actually hopped a little to his right and caught Ford — hanging him up for a second. It was an illegal screen, but the type that never gets called. (Watch a replay of Foster sliding to his right to try to set a screen for Danny on the following play.)
Paul, meanwhile slides at an angle towards the elbow, creating enough space so to make it hard to cover both players. After Ford gets disengaged from West, he frantically tries to recover, and then — and this makes the play — Paul pump fakes a shot. The pump fake does two crucial things.
First, it gets Ford in the air and moving between Paul and the basket, which opens up a pristine passing lane to get the ball back to West. Second, it gets Foster to take one step up to challenge the shot — a half-jump that delays his recovery to West just enough to make sure West doesn’t have to rush it.
Beautiful work by the best in the business at it.
The other big thing was what New Orleans did with the other three guys. They got them completely out of the play. The wings — Jarrett Jack and Marco Belinelli both stood on the the sideline outside of the three-point arc, and Okafor actually set up out of bounds on the baseline. Jack and Belinelli drifted waiting for the pass, and Okafor came in bounds directly under the basket and started pushing Posey out to get rebounding position.
It was set up so that any help besides from any of the three defenders not involved in the pick-and-roll defense would have opened up a guy for a good look at the basket — leaving Ford and Foster on an island of sorts.
I criticize the Pacers for this play a little bit in the video, but Tim’s take is definitely more nuanced. Ultimately, this play is a lot like the Andrew Bogut tip-in game-winner: really good execution. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap. (Still, TJ letting himself get man-handled that badly can’t be considered good work.)