It Wasn't That Bad: Judging Indiana's Offense in the 4th Quarter vs. Toronto

How can you possibly lose to a team that scores just 5 points in the fourth quarter? Well, for starters, you have to play miserable basketball at both ends of the court for most of the first 36 minutes of the game. Then, apparently if you’re the Pacers, you have to miss a ton of shots.

Because, after rewatching every Pacers’ possession in the fourth quarter last night, they really played relatively well. The defense was obviously very good. It certainly helped that Toronto was gassed, but it remains fact that the Raptors got almost no good looks at the hoop over the final 12 minutes. And while the fact that the Pacers only scored 15 points in the fourth, on 5-for-24 shooting, suggests their offense played almost as miserably as the Raps, they really didn’t. They almost always maintained good spacing. They generally ran good sets. They didn’t make a ton of mistakes. And almost every shot they took was at least decent.

You can argue with who took which shots perhaps (two midrange jumpers off designed picks for Gerald Green). Or you can debate the merits of going to a late-game midrange jumper from anyone, even if it is David West. And, counterintuitively, you could suggest that the Pacers were actually too discerning, passing up a few open shots in favor of closer, more difficult ones. But aside from one ill-advised Gerald Green three and a few bungled possessions that began with good intentions, the problem’s that led to only scoring 15 points (and thus not finishing the comeback) were almost entirely due to execution — not a fundamental flaw in play design or even how the sets were run.

The Pacers, mostly, just missed shots.

That doesn’t make the epic-ness of losing to a team that only scored 5 points in the fourth and better. Nor does it excuse the first three quarters of play nor the poor shot-making in the fourth. Production will always trump process, but the fact that they were able to generate good shots — just not make them — should allow fans to back off the panic cliff a little bit. The teams still has plenty of problems. But running terrible offense in the final period last night was not one of them. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go down.

Here is a full breakdown with a some rough grades given to each of the team’s 19 fourth-quarter possessions.

Possession 1: Gerald Green Curls off a Pick, Takes an Open Jumper – MISS
The Pacers run a double pin-down screen for open up Green, who curls off a Hansbrough pick for a catch-and-shoot jumper from 19 feet. Gerald doesn’t really balance himself well and drifts on his shot, which lessens the chance of an otherwise good play leading to points. But if this was Rip Hamilton or Danny Granger, it’s an excellent look.

Grade: B

Possession 2: Paul George Takes a Contested Spot-Up Three – MISS
After an sideline inbounds, the Pacers generally stand around with the posting Ian Mahinmi and Tyler Hansbrough looking like the only “threats.” Green dribbles left to draw a weakside defender but telegraphs his intention to swing the ball to Paul George, allowing the defender to recover for a good challenge. It’s not a terrible shot, but if the best they were going to do was a kick-out jumper, Green could have tried to get the ball a little deeper before they settled.

Grade: C-

Possession 3: Paul George Chucks Up a Layup in Traffic – MISS
A slow break leads to a little two-man action between Hansbrough in the post and George on the wing. PG cuts through after an entry, gets the hand-off and heads baseline. But he gets trapped too far under the hoop and tries a highly contested layup. If he was more comfortable in that position of trying to score there off the bounce, he would have either better exploited the hoop’s ability to shield the defender’s contest or drawn a foul. He instead took a terrible shot.

Grade: D+

Possession 4: Tyler Hansbrough Drives, Draws a Foul – FREE THROWS
Indiana passively swings the ball around the perimeter until Hansbrough catches his defender gambling for a steal. He assertively attacks the advantage and two Raptors converge, fouling to prevent the layup. Not a dangerous offense, but good individual play by Tyler.

Grade: B-

Possession 5: Gerald Green Takes a Decent Three – MAKE
Indiana passes the ball around the perimeter for 19 seconds, attempting a few harmless pick-and-rolls, before Paul George probes the interior with his dribble. He draws some attention and kicks it out to Green, who catches a bad pass but manages to stick the challenged, spot-up three. Even though they spent most of the possession letting the defense rest, this showed good shot-clock recognition by George that “it’s time to make a play” and then making something happen. That’s what good teams do when their earlier (or in this case, half-hearted) options don’t pan out.

Grade: B-

Possession 6:  West/George PnR Draws Foul, Green Forces It, George Bricks – MISS
Screen action leads to George and West running a top-of-the-key pick and roll with the whole weak side of the court wide open. West gets free, receives the pass, draws the double, recognizes Hill open in the opposite corner and makes a nice skip pass. A defender deflection means Hill has to adjust but he still finds a baseline lane and draws the foul trying to attack. After the inbounds, Green launches a lazy three but Hansbrough rebounds. Hill ends up with a nice look at a three, but he passes it up to get one for George, who evidently didn’t think he was open enough either. He dribbles in to take a long two instead. He misses. It’s a fine shot, but they would have been better off with either an open three by Hill. Or probably a three by George.

Grade: B

Possession 7: West Posts, Finds a Cutting Hill for the Layup – MAKE
Indy isolates West on the right elbow and gets him the ball with a defender on his back. He forces the issue and forces the help to collapse. Hill makes a heads-up cut as his man sags and David gets him the ball. He blows by the big who picks him up with two dribbles and goes up strong to converts a tricky layup.

Grade: A

Possession 8: Hill/Hansbrough PnR Gets West a Shot Down Low – MISS
Good perimeter movement leads to a Hill/Hansbrough pick-and-roll. Toronto blitzes Hill, who does a nice job getting Tyler the ball quickly. West’s man rotates over and Tyler makes a good, quick pass to David, who plants himself right in the middle of the paint and goes up strong over two Raptors. Great look but he misses

Grade: A-

Possession 9: George Turns It Over on a Drive – TURNOVER
Coming of a slow-break pick and roll with West, Paul George finds a seem. He drives. Then he just drops the ball. Hard to grade such a blunder, but it was more an individual error than bad offense. (They called this a missed shot, for what it’s worth. I’m calling it a turnover.)

Grade: B-

Possession 10: Hill Misses a Wide-Open Three – MISS
While Indiana didn’t do a ton to generate a great shot here, bad Toronto defense allowed them to get one anyway. The Pacers stand around awhile until Green gets open off a nice fade cut to the corner off a pick. He easily penetrations by his man and the defense (over)reacts, leaving Hill wide open behind the arc. He catches, shoots … and misses.

Grade: A

Possession 11: Green Misses an Open Mid-Range Jumper – MISS
After Toronto (easily) stymies a Paul George-led pick and roll, Green pops up to the elbow off a (probably accidental, certainly backwards and definitely moving) pin-down screen from Tyler. He curls well enough to separate from his defender and gets off a decent look since this Raptor shows no interest in contesting. Not the most efficient location for anyone to score, particularly Gerald. And the shot clock wasn’t about to expire. But it was arguable the best look they were going to get.

Grade: C+

Possession 12: Hill Dribbles Up the Court and Scores – MAKE
Hill gets the ball 90 feet from the hoop after an Indiana steal and dribbles all the way to the cup, putting in a tough but aggressive driving layup against a Toronto defense that was indifferent to his attack.

Grade: A+

Possession 13: Hill Dribbles Up the Court and Scores Again – MAKE
Hill again takes the ball from the back court and dribbles all the way for a layup, this time slowly down briefly to perplex the Raptors with a slick crossover after a West screen. Nice finish.

Grade: A+

Possession 14: Out of Bounds Play Frees Hill, Who Can’t Convert – MISS
Off a time out, the Pacers run Hill off a double screen on the baseline. It looks like he has a good look for a three but, presumably encouraged by the non-resistance he has met the last two times down the court, he attacks off the dribble. He’s cut off baseline, however, and despite the defender subsequently falling down, he can’t regather himself to make the bucket. He and Hansbrough both get tries to tip in the miss but to no avail. Ultimately, an excellent play and an understandable decision to drive that turned into a mess after things got hairy and Hill couldn’t get himself out of trouble. The team’s aggressive attacking on the offensive glass is encouraging.

Grade: A-

Possession 15: George Breaks Off Play, Drives, Punts the Ball – TURNOVER
Paul George finds himself matched up by Andrea Bargnani and is like, don’t worry, guys … I got this. He don’t got this. He drives and dribbles the ball off his leg out of bounds. Not the worst decision in the world but arguably its worst execution.

Grade: C

Possession 16: Hill/West PnR Leads to Missed West Jumper – MISS
Good movement and a double ball reversal leads to a Hill/West pick-and-pop with nobody else around. West finds some space on the baseline, catches and puts up a jumper. For some, that is a questionable shot but it’s his bread and butter, and arguable the Pacers’ best play. Tyler, as on almost every miss, goes all out for an offensive rebound, but can’t keep it alive.

Grade: A-

Possession 17: One-Man George Break Earns a Foul – FREE THROWS
Paul George grabs a long rebound after yet another Toronto miss and heads off the the races. With only one guy back, Paul attacks hard. His approach isn’t great but he draws the foul and gets to the line. (It was probably a charge.)

Grade: A

Possession 18: Hill Dribbles Up the Court and Scores Again – MAKE
Hill grabs the outlet and dribbles all the way to the hoop for his easiest points yet.

Grade: A+

Possession 19: West Can’t Convert, All the Offensive Boards Ever Don’t Help – MISS
While I really don’t like Paul George’s timid bounce pass here, it did make it to a rolling West out of their pick-and-roll. But David can’t convert. George gets the board and misses a three. He again gets the board and Indy calls a timeout. (End of video one above, FYI.) On the inbounds, Hill comes off a good Tyler screen and pulls up from 20 feet. He misses. George gets ANOTHER rebound and makes a move to free himself for a jumper. He misses. Ball game. Both sequences lead to makable looks for West and Hill, and the offensive boards gave the Pacers even more chances to win. As we saw throughout the quarter, however, nobody — aside from Hill inside three feet — could make a damn shot.

Grade: B

Topics: Video Breakdown

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