The Pacers' Defense Is So Much Better Than Everyone Else's


Though they have been slipping of late — allowing higher point totals to opponents — the Pacers have the best defense in the league by a wide margin. Frank Vogel has devised a sensational system and he has the personnel, Roy Hibbert and Paul George in particular, to make even the best offenses look mediocre.

Earlier this year, we noted that the Pacers were not just impressive compared to their peers, but that their defense was elite even by historical standards. Even with a slight slide, Indiana still has the fourth-best defensive rating of any team since 1980 and the best since 2003-04, per Basketball-Reference.com.

Impressive numbers.

Equally impressive how they rate against this year’s crop of NBA defenses.

Pacers Ranks

Atop the chart above are Indiana’s rankings compared to the rest of the league in both defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) and points allowed per 48 minutes. They rank first in both.

Below lists how they compare in the four factors, which can best be explained as forcing misses, rebounding, not fouling and forcing turnovers. Indiana is elite in holding down their opponents’ eFG% and 3-point percentage as well as in rebounding all those misses they do force. And while they are not quite as great at not fouling, they still do that well enough to not get themselves in trouble. In fact, the only area in which they do not compare favorably, from a statistical standpoint, is in forcing turnovers. But as you can see in the chart below, there is usually little correlation between turnovers and points allowed.

Speaking of greater detail, here are the charts that show the data behind the rankings above.

Points Allowed

It’s bloody difficult to score on the Pacers. There’s just no way around it. And if Indiana wins a title this season, this will be the critical reason. It’s nice to talk about Paul George’s scoring, Indiana’s big men in the post, Lance Stephenson’s bull rushes and Evan Turner’s ability to put the ball in the hole, but this team is built on one thing above all: defense.

The numbers have fallen off a bit of late, and especially after the All-Star break, but the season-long stats are still incredible and fans can hope this is just more about mid-season fatigue. Tim Donahue looked more into this slippage yesterday.

1 - DRTG2 - PTs

Forcing Misses

As is the case when it comes to preventing teams from scoring, no defense comes close to the Pacers’ in terms of forcing misses. Indiana has a 2.0% lead on the next best team at doing so, the Chicago Bulls. To put that in perspective, it’s the same gap between the 16th-place Orlando Magic and the 30th-ranked Philadelphia 76ers.

Indiana is also no slouch at keeping teams from hitting 3-pointers. This is by design and it is part of the team’s strategy to prevent its opponents from scoring at the rim or from behind the arc: the two most efficient areas to score from on the court.

3 - eFG 4 - 3-PT

Rebounding, Not Fouling and Turnovers

As we saw above, the Pacers are an elite defensive rebounding team, trailing only the Bobcats in the percentage of misses that they retrieve. But they do not force many turnovers — though it always seems like those they do create lead to breakaway dunks for Paul George.

5 - DRB6 - FTA 7 - TOV

Lastly, here are the raw, per-48-minute numbers for all the Association’s teams on defensive rebounding, foul attempts allowed and turnovers created.

8 - DREB 9 - FTA 10 - TO

Tags: Department Of Defense