By: Louis Prejean
The Indiana Pacers of old faced the Miami Heat in consecutive Eastern Conference Finals, played the best defense, and were the favorites to win it all at times. That was only a few, short seasons ago and, after a couple rough years, the Pacers are back on track. The Indiana Pacers are 12-5 and now only trail the Cleveland Cavaliers by half of a game for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The obvious reasons for this turnaround are Paul George and Frank Vogel. Paul George has been a MVP candidate as of late, while Frank Vogel is putting on one of the better coaching performances of his career. The Indiana Pacers faced a near complete roster overhaul when they lost David West, Roy Hibbert, and others in the offseason. When West and Hibbert left, many believed the Pacers were headed to a rebuilding era. Many believed Paul George will not return as the same All-Star player they were getting use to seeing night in and night out. Many thought the Pacers will not compete at a high level for years to come, but now look at them.
Same Defense, Different Day
Tough defense and turning games ugly have been the staple for the Indiana Pacers’ success over the years. Nothing has changed to start this season. The Indiana Pacers are fourth in opponents points per game by only allowing opposing teams to score 95.3 points per game. The Pacers rank second in the association in defensive rating at 97.7. Even last season, the Pacers ranked fourth in opponents points per game.
The Indiana defense remains a constant within the franchise. The Pacers pride themselves on getting stops on the defensive end to create easier opportunities on offense. Where the team lacks on offense, they make up for it by getting multiple stops on the defensive end. Indiana ranks 10th in steals and hold opponents to 42% shooting from the field. Paul George and company are making life hard for the opposition by forcing them to take low-percentage shots. The defensive numbers do not stand out as much as some will think, but the Pacers know how to get the job done at that end of the floor.
Going on the Offensive
The Indiana Pacers have not been one of the better, more efficient offenses in the NBA over the past few seasons. Indiana have been 24th in the league when it comes to points per game over the previous two season. This season, the Pacers have fixed their offense and now have it rolling better than the past. Paul George deserves most of the credit for the offense running more productively. George is averaging 27.4 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game on 45% shooting from the field. What is even more impressive is that Paul George is shooting even better from the three point line. Number 13 for Indiana is launching the basketball from downtown and shooting 46% from three.
The Indiana Pacers’ offense is significantly better since they have adjusted to a faster style of play. With the likes of David West and Roy Hibbert, the Pacers wanted to play entirely half court sets on offense and run the ball through them in the post. Times have changed. Indiana now ranks ninth in pace at 97.5 possessions per 48 minutes. The Pacers are also shooting the three pointer with great success. The second best team in the Eastern Conference is also second best at three point field goal percentage at 39%. The numbers have been better for them and watching Indiana play, they are in a groove on both ends of the ball.
Keeping Up the Pace
The NBA season is long and the Pacers have only completed 17 games out of the 82-game regular season. The Pacers’ defense will, without a doubt, be there each and every night. The offense is the area of concern for Indiana. They know Paul George will post high scoring marks every game, but the others like C.J. Miles and Monta Ellis must be serviceable on that end. As mentioned, their offense has not been historically good so keeping up this pace will be the challenge.
The Pacers will go as far as Paul George and Frank Vogel will take them. Vogel is inspiring his team to play with confidence and the team is responding with a winning demeanor. The way this roster has responded after being overlooked is something to respect, as they look to continue their hot streak of six straight wins.
The Indiana Pacers are back to their winning way and the resurgence in Indiana is happening in front of everyone. Somehow the Pacers will still fly under the radar, but that is just how they like it.