Despite MVP contender and dominant two-way big Joel Embiid being sidelined in the Indiana Pacers‘ first outing against the 76ers, Indy still found a way to fall short thanks to a brutal fourth quarter. Despite being up by 13 heading into the final period the Pacers, and more specifically rookie Coach Nate Bjorkren, made some ultra impactful schematic and rotational mistakes that killed any momentum in what should have been a comfortable win for the Navy and Gold.
Indiana Pacers make key mistakes in the fourth quarter
Play against the Zone: Falling into Doc’s strategic traps
The Pacers absolutely dominated the 76ers and their attempt at stopping a Pacers quick-moving attack with a man defense, as the Pacers were frequently seen gashing Philly inside and kicking to open shooters, where the Pacers nailed 10 threes on a slow-rotating defense.
Seeing this point-hemorrhaging display by his team, veteran coach Doc Rivers threw his team into a 2-3 zone, putting All-Defensive talent Matisse Thybulle, at the top of the zone where his steal and deflection magnetism were on full display thanks to some lackluster decisions by Bjorkgren from an offensive perspective.
This impact was possible because of a lack of movement into open spots by the team’s players, and an offense that remained stagnant. If you chose to be stagnant when playing a zone, you’ll either need pin screens to open shooters or a passing big man at the nail to punish having only two players on the perimeter, and Bjorkgren tried this by playing Sabonis there, but his value was completely mitigated due to sharing the floor with guard T.J. McConnell down the stretch.
T.J.’s complete lack of shooting outside killed the Pacers in this stretch because Thybulle and Simmons could crash and poke at Sabonis with seemingly little penalty.
Speaking of minutes, The Brogdon and Sabonis problem continues to occur.
As this site has already covered before, All-NBA level stud Domantas Sabonis and his All-Star teammate Malcolm Brogdon have been playing simply too many minutes this season. This overtime working was again on display against the 76ers as they both logged over 35 minutes once again this season.
The two All-Stars are both top-four in the NBA in minutes per-game and considering both of them have recent injury concerns, it can be frightening seeing them with such an intense workload. Bjorkgren should do his studs a favor and give them a couple more breathing minutes, and save them for the playoffs when we have a healthier roster. Besides, who doesn’t want to see what we have in Goga Bitadze?