The Pacers opened the 2012 campaign with a win over the Pistons in front of a full — and enthusiastic — house last night. As promised, we’re going to be using some Synergy Sports data to try to understand Pacer strengths and weaknesses at each end of the floor.
It’s important to bear in mind a couple of things about this exercise. First is that it will be an evolution. The spiderwebs from each game can help understand that game, but their true value will come over the course of time. As more information is compiled, hopefully these can become a pictorial representation of the team: Who they are, who they want to be, and how they are progressing along that path.
Second is that these are going to be relatively clinical. There were a lot of really big positives in last night’s game for the Pacers, but those represent “softer” returns. Those are definitely of value, but not necessarily in this context. These will look at the details, and those details are to be folded in with the other aspects of the the game and season at a higher level.
So, without further ado, let’s look at the end where the Pacers were bordering on dominant: Defense.
If you read my introductory piece yesterday, you may remember seeing one of the players with a 2010-11 spiderweb similar to Detroit’s: that of Paul George.
I described this as “the spiderweb of someone who is an afterthought in the offense.” Though it remains to be seen how much of this can be credited to the Pacers, and how much is a nasty harbinger for the Pistons and their fans, for one night, Detroit’s offense was an afterthought.
In the halfcourt, the Pistons only tasted success in Spot Ups and Post Ups – and the Post Ups come with an asterisk as they only ran nine (9) of them all night. Spot Ups generally have a higher points-per-possession rate, but it’s important to recognize that most Spot Ups are secondary options from the offense. The team tries something first – penetration, post ups, etc. – but the defense cuts that off and the ball ends up in somebody’s hands for a jumper.
So, Detroit did well on the safety valve plays (especially Brandon Knight, who knocked down 3 three-pointers), but failed pretty completely in what they were trying to do. If you exclude the 1.33 PPP scored on Spot Ups, and the 0.88 PPP scored in transition, the Pacers held the Pistons to 0.61 PPP. In 19 plays involving PnR action, Detroit only managed 5 points last night.
Delving further using Hoopdata’s Advanced Box Score, you’ll see the Pacers completely cut off the paint. Detroit hit only 15 of 39 shots (.385) from inside 15 feet, including only 1-for-9 from 3 to 15 feet. That’s well below the league average of .533.
That will work.
However, this will not:
A for effort. Solid C-Minus for execution.
The Pacers last night were all about the inside game, getting 24 plays out of Post Ups and putting up 30 shots at the rim. The effort was tenacious, but not efficient.
Indiana shot .368 from the floor overall last night, yet still managed a double-digit victory — that’s something that happens more often than you think (59 times since 1986) — but this was the first time it happened in over two years. So, not something that should become a habit.
But hopefully, the constant attack of the rim, particularly the post (where Roy Hibbert, David West, Danny Granger, and Tyler Hansbrough each had more than four post plays) seems like a sound plan. However, it’s worth noting that at this point, this is more of an expression of who they want to become than who they actually are. Still, it’s an admirable goal.
Meanwhile, looking at PnRs yields mixed results. The ball handler was pretty ineffective, scoring only three points in six tries. Worse, that three pointer came on the first PnR of the night, with Paul George draining it. Paul generated a miss and a turnover on his other three tries, while Darren Collison had three attempts and three misses.
The screener was more effective, scoring 1.00 PPP, and that was almost all Roy Hibbert. Hibbert scored 6 points on 4 PnRs – three of them executed with Danny Granger as a partner. Tyler Hansbrough hit one of two jumpers, and David West executed two nicely – one each with George Hill and Darren Collison – but missed jumpers on both.
Some of last night’s offensive disappointments were missed shots – a lot of front iron was drawn – some was poor execution, and some may reflect an offensive philosophy that is not fully formed. All things to be expected in the first game of any season – particularly one being played on a compressed timetable.
What I think we saw last night was a decent glimpse of what the Pacers hope to do this season, as well as a reasonable indication of a sizable gap between desire and reality. They’ve got 65 games left to close that. It will be interesting to watch.