I had the opportunity to exchange some thoughts on the two gold-wearing squads that will face off tonight with a few excellent outlets. Andy Kamenetzky of the infamous Kamenetzky brothers, who run ESPN’s Land o’ Lakers blog, reached out the other day to find out what’s right with Indiana’s defense and what’s wrong with flailing offense.
Here’s part of the dialogue.
Land O’ Lakers: The Pacers are holding teams to 89.3 points per game, down dramatically from last season’s 100.9. Even taking into account Indiana’s pace and the fact that scoring is down across the board in a compressed season, that’s a pretty remarkable uptick. What’s accounted for this improvement?
Jared Wade: Most importantly, there is for the first time a consistent rotation of players with clearly defined roles who play in a cohesive system the team has bought into. And the addition of Hill’s long arms, quick feet and well-drilled habits are a part of an overall improvement to the perimeter: the first line of defense, if you will.
Paul George didn’t see big minutes until the twilight of last season, and he is an excellent defender who, at 6-foot-9, can envelop most guards with his length and stay in front of them with his agility. He gained a lot of confidence after checking Derrick Rose so well in last year’s playoffs and it shows; he is now the rare player whose offensive game starts flowing after he makes a good defensive play instead of vice versa. Darren Collison is much improved. He was lost in the pick-and-roll last year and just got beat a ton. He isn’t perfect now, but there are way fewer possessions that leave you shaking your head at his defensive technique and effort. And Danny Granger, who has always had the tools to be a better defender, has gotten back to being more of a two-way player. Perhaps it’s because he’s struggling to score and he feels he has to, but he is clearly not taking as many plays off on the other side of the ball as he has in recent years.
And here is an an excerpt from the email discussion I had with JM Poulard of Forum Blue & Gold yesterday.
so far this season Danny Granger’s shooting has baffled me. Initially I figured that he was settling for tough shots, but after watching the Pacers a few times, I liked what I saw from their offense.
Oddly enough, the Lakers run some of the same misdirection plays for Kobe Bryant that the Pacers run for Danny Granger. The idea is often to get the defense to think that the ball is going to one of the big men inside as Kobe sets a cross screen for his center, and then he gets screened by his power forward and pops out at the top of the key for either a jump shot or an isolation.
The Lakers so far have found ways to execute but have had trouble converting their shots. The Pacers seem to have the same issue but they offer enough variety for things to progressively get better during the rest of the season.
In the matchup tonight, I think the big men cancel each other out (starters and bench) and thus the wing scorers will play a huge part in this one. Darren Collison should be able to turn the corner against Fisher and get into the lane for some opportunities in the paint.
The great equalizer may be Matt Barnes getting out in transition for some easy scoring chances as well as his ability to play off Kobe to get open 3-pointers.
Ultimately though, I think the contest comes down to whether Kobe (versus George) or Granger performs better (versus Barnes and MWP).
Who do you think performs better and leads his team to victory?
Head over to FB&G for my thrilling answer.