It’s that time again. And by that, I mean it’s time for another installment of the By The Numbers series. And by that, I mean that there was a confluence of my recollection that I was supposed to periodically update this series with the available time to update it.
So…while the 25-game mark has no meaningful statistical or symbolice relevance in a 66-game season, it still feels like a nice round number. Besides with Pacers dropping bad performances last night and on Saturday, it’s worth getting some perspective on the season-to-date.
Indy’s best start since the 2003-04 season, when the Pacers won 19 of their first 25 on the way to a 61-win season. Of course, a 61-win season is already impossible, as the most they could win with 8 losses is 59 games this season. But if you prorated by dividing 61 by 82, then multiplying it by 66, you’d end up with the equiv…oh, never mind. Good start, though.
The Pacers have slipped just a little bit in their rankings for both Defensive and Offensive Efficiency. Defensively, they remain very good – Top 5 – and they continue to drive that with very good field goal defense (4th in Def FG% at .421, 5th in Def eFG% at .462). As I’ve said before, field goal defense is far and away the single most important aspect of defending. If you’re very good at that, you’ll never be worse than above average at overall defense. Their work on the defensive glass has gotten better, but is still poor (.728, 23rd). For perspective, however, that is probably what keeps Indy’s defense from being elite, as opposed to just very, very good.
Offensively, the Pacers are really a case of “everything but the girl.” They don’t turn the ball over a lot, they do a good job on their offensive glass, and they get to the line on a pretty regular basis. They just can’t make shots. Their .461 is good only for24th in Off eFG%, and remains a lower eFG% than their own vaunted field goal defense allows their opponents. That’s why Indy doesn’t get the girl and is a below average offensive team (20th).
The .564 at the rim is dead last in the Association, and the Pacers only have three players – Jeff Foster, George Hill, and Paul George – shooting at or above the league average of .629. Worse, eight of their thirteen players have at-the-rim conversion rates lower than the New Jersey Nets’ .582 (2nd worse in the NBA). These include Hansbrough (.571), West (.569), Granger (.557), Hibbert (.548), and Collison (.543).
Indy has managed to claw past Orlando and Toronto in their 16-to-23-foot accuracy, but they’re still not even approaching good. Hibbert and West are both above 40%, but they get drowned out by another general lack of accuracy, led by Danny Granger (.270) and Tyler Hansbrough (.300). Let’s face it, when Lance Stephenson is your third most accurate shooter from 16-to-23 feet, it’s not going to be pretty.
The Pacers’ “SoSHR,” which was one of the lowest in the league, has moved to the middle of the pack on the strength of last few games. This is basically the Weighted Strength of Schedule – Home/Road in Pacers’ games thus far. This is a metric I use regularly, and you can find a more detailed explanation here.
Indiana went 3-2 in their toughest five-game stretch of the season, posting wins on the road over the Lakers, Bulls, and Magic. The truth of the matter is that the Pacers’ schedule for the season will never be “tough” by this metric. They play in a weak Eastern Conference and have one of the easier schedules against the Western Conference. Indy’s final 41 games are currently rated as the 5th easiest in the Association.
Still, this measure doesn’t contemplate 7-game-in-10-night stretches like the one the Pacers just entered. Those will be the landmines this squad will have to negotiate to be able to capitalize on the overall weakness of their slate.
7, 10-4, 6-1, 4-3
In this condensed season, the Pacers have played seven back-to-back (b2b) sets. They’re 10-4 in those 14 games, winning 6 of the 7 first-nighters, but only 4 of the 7 second-nighters. They have swept three of them.
Even with the loss to Atlanta on Wednesday, Indiana’s 10-4 record is the second best in the league in B2B situations, trailing only Oklahoma City’s 12-3. The Pacers are tied with the second best record on the first night, and have the 10th best record on the second night.
Thirty of their remaining 41 games will be played as part of b2b or b2b2b situations. That’s more than any other team has left. Indy will play 12 traditional b2bs, and two of the lockout-induced back-to-back-to-backs. The first of which starts next Tuesday, when Miami comes to town.
That’s the number of wins I had projected after 25 games as part of ESPN’s pre-season predictions. The full season number was 37, but I think that probably should be adjusted upwards. It’s getting close to the time where anything short of 40 would be considered something of a disappointment.
9 of 11, 4 of 14
Tyler Hansbrough scored in double figures in 9 of his first 11 games, but only 4 of the next 14. It is somewhat encouraging that he’s played well in two of the last three, but a little disconcerting that those excellent performances coincided with two of the worst overall Pacer performances of the season. We’ve seen this phenomena before, and I discussed it last season when reviewing Tyler’s performance in March.
The disconnect between Hansbrough’s performance and the team’s is something that may bear watching, but probably doesn’t bear worrying about. It is most likely the result of the continuing evolution of this team made up of a lot of either new players or players in new roles. The evidence isn’t particularly compelling at this point (8-5 when Tyler scores double figures, 9-3 when he doesn’t), but I’m sure all of us are looking forward to both Hansbrough and the team as a whole playing well at the same time.
-21 per 100
Darren Collison has played about 70% of the minutes at point guard this year for the Pacers. When he is replaced by either George Hill or A.J. Price, the offensive efficiency drops, on average, about 21 points per 100. The defense gets just a little better (3 points per 100), but overall, the net differential for the Pacers gets worse by 18 points per 100.
Last season, Collison played 60% of the minutes at the point. The offense suffered slightly (1.3 per 100) when someone else played the point, but the defense improved by almost 6 per hundred – so the team more than 4 points better with DC on the bench last year. This is probably the biggest sign of Darren’s turnaround this season.
I continue to watch the Pacers’ accumulated rank in the Four Factors, and it continues to be the most encouraging thing to me. The Pacers’ continue to stay in the 90s, which historically puts them in a group that has won 63% of their games. As long as Indy can keep their production in this range, I will feel relatively confident projecting 40 or more wins for them in this lockout-shortened season.
As with almost all of my other work, the marvelous Basketball-Reference.com was indispensable in my research and analysis on this piece. Further kudos to BasketballValue.com for their unit and on/off information.
Tags: Stat Talk