After five games, the Pacers are undefeated and holding pole position in virtually every media power rankings list. Though I’m still not sure what power rankings actually are, that seems good. There is no doubt they have been kicking the snot out of all comers, and even if the competition hasn’t been as fierce as it will be come playoff time (they’ve faced Orlando, New Orleans, Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago), you only get to play who’s on your schedule.
The talk of the town is naturally focusing on Paul George’s ascendence, Roy Hibbert’s nightly swat-a-thon and Lance Stephenson’s ability to pick up exactly where he left off when he was taking over a game that erased New York from the playoffs last June.
Those three individual story lines are great. And Indiana will be much more likely to win a title if these players are able to continue to produce like this.
Indiana was the hardest team to score on last season, and while some analysts believe Chicago will have the league’s best defense this year, it is no surprise to see the Pacers preventing buckets. It’s the unreal degree to which they are doing it that is so impressing, however.
The most glaring stat: Opponents are shooting just 37.5% against Indiana so far this year.
Essentially, the Pacers have made every player they’ve faced as successful as Abe-Lincoln-neck-tatoo-era DeShawn Stevenson. The rate is barely better when you account for three-pointers; by allowing opponents to shoot just 31.8% from behind the arc, Indiana’s eFG% against so far is merely 40.7% — also in the late-career DeShawn range.
The team is also surrendering just 86.3 points per 100 possessions (or 84.4 points per game for you luddites), a ludricrous figure to post for even one matchup against a roster full of professional basketball players, let alone for five games.
Then again, it’s just five games.
So take this with all the grains of salt in Utah that you would ingest before shooting all the tequila in Mexico.
Still, astonishing numbers nonetheless. And it should go without saying that the Pacers lead the NBA in all these categories — by a wide margin.
The rise of George, the impenetrability of Hibbert and the steadiness of Stephenson will all be critical for the Pacers to advance further this year than they did last season. But Frank Vogel built this team on defense — not story lines — and it is this more than any of the other early-season chatter and excitement that will provide the season-long foundation for success.
Topics: Advanced Stat Talk