2012 Spiderwebs: An Offensive Breakout in New Jersey and a Heat Check

Through the first three games, the Pacers had failed to reach 40% in field goal shooting, yet they still stood 3-0. However, their attempt to do that for a fourth straight time Saturday night resulted in 96-88 loss in Detroit.

Losses in the NBA happen all the time, especially on the road. Nobody predicted or expected 66 wins for the Pacers this year, so this loss means very little in the grand scheme of things. Hell, it means very little in the mini scheme of things. Still, the purpose of the early season and these spiderwebs is to help us (or at least me) understand who these Pacers are.

Through four games, the Pacers had been very sound defensively and very unsound offensively. Indiana posted an offensive efficiency of less than 97, and an absolutely awful eFG% of 40.8%, all of which Jared covered extensively the other day. Of course, there is plenty of time left in the season to turn this around – but we can’t pretend that kind of offense is anywhere near good enough over a full season, let alone in the playoffs.

Through the first four games, the Pacers had been true to Coach Frank Vogel’s word in becoming a “power post” team…though probably with more emphasis on the “post” than the “power” part. Indiana had finished more plays in the post (84) than any other set, but only scored on 32 of them – shooting only 35.6% and committing 13 turnovers.

Monday night in New Jersey, the Pacer offense exploded- posting an offensive efficiency over 124 and an eFG% of over 60%.  And this is what the offense looked like:

A change in tactics resulted in a huge net benefit. Therefore, the Pacers should move away from the power post principle and towards this approach. Right?

No.

This is really more about balance. Using the post (and PnRs) as the starting point for the offense is sound, but what I believe we were seeing in the first four games was players forcing the issue. Without an overwhelming advantage in ability or athleticism, forcing the issue will more often than not result in missed shots and turnovers.

What you see in the chart above is the ball movement – the extra pass – that Vogel and Pacer players talked about both before and after the game. Plays that start in the post – or the PnR or as isolations – can often end up in spot ups or cuts…provided the player with the ball keeps his eyes open, and the players away from the ball keep moving.

The Pacers didn’t abandon the post on Monday night. They merely stopped treating it as the end of the offense.

The Pacers last season under Vogel ran a crude offense with basically one-option sets. This was largely dictated by the circumstance of his midseason hire. Through the first four games of this season, not much had changed.

Monday night was a step in transition. Through spacing, movement away from the ball, and passing, the Pacers can transform the rhetoric of power post into an actual offense that generates more good shots without losing the attractive foundation on the block.

Monday’s spiderweb swings too far the other way, but it may indicate progress. Right now, Indiana is still a poor offensive team,  but it will be worth watching them try to change that reality, and what steps they take to do it. How far can they get by just getting better at what they want to do? How much or little will they have to adjust their approach.

Sixty one games remaining, and tonight presents the first serious test: the Heat in Miami.

Heat Check

Miami lost their first game the other night to Atlanta, struggling against the zone as noted by my colleague Josh Dhani. Let’s take a look first at how Miami scores.

Miami enters tonight ranked second in the Association at 0.98 PPP, being particularly effective with the ball handler in the isolation, PnR ballhandler, and in the Post. Here’s how the Miami offense matches up with the Pacers’ defense.

This is really an interesting graphic. The distribution of points scored by the Heat Offense lays almost perfectly over the distribution of points allowed by Indy’s defense. This could be an example of small sample size theater, but it could indicate that Miami’s offensive strengths feed into the Pacers defensive weaknesses.

The Pacers’ defense has been strong in all five games – allowing only 104 points per 100 in the loss to Detroit. Tonight will be a much stouter test.

The Heat also boast a top 10 defense:

At 0.88 PPP, they rank 9th overall. However,they are third in defending the post (0.63) and second against the ballhandler in PnR situations. Here’s how the Pacer O matches up.

The Pacers will want to post up, and the Miami is really good at stopping that. However, the opportunity to score on this Heat team will come the same way they came the other night: ball movement and being ready to hit the open shots they provide.

Roy Hibbert will be very important in tonight’s offense. He has been the only successful player in the post – 1.00 PPP, 59% shooting – but he struggles to get a lot of opportunities.  Granger, Collison, George, and Hill will have to make themselves available for ball rotations and nail their shots.

Big test number one tonight for the Pacers in Miami.

As always, thanks to MySynergySports.com for providing the data necessary. You can follow them @MySynergySports on Twitter.

 

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