Scouting the Opposition: Indiana Pacers
For every home game this season, we’ll be gathering some intel on the opposing team from someone who knows them best — a team employee, a rival blogger, beat writer or broadcaster.
His answers are below:
Hawks.com: After some early struggles, the Pacers seem to have righted the ship. What’s been the biggest key to the team’s turnaround?
Scott Agness: After losing six of their first nine games, including a three-point loss in Atlanta, Coach Vogel decided to implement change on the offensive end. He wanted more movement, less standing, and more passing. They’re still near the bottom in offensive statistics but their flow is much better. The key through the whole thing has been their defense. They are the top-rated defensive team in the league, the best rebounding team and in the top-three in blocks per game. They are holding their opponents under 90 points and when they do that, they’re winning.
Hawks.com: What is the latest on the recovery of Danny Granger? Do the Pacers expect to have him back before the end of the season?
SA: It’s been almost eight weeks since he received an injection from Dr. James Andrews for soreness in his left knee. He hasn’t played this season and Coach Vogel said he’s still at least a month away. He’ll most likely return around All-Star break in mid-February. We have seen him shoot at the other end of the court during practices but otherwise, there isn’t much of an update because Granger has declined all media requests to this point.
Hawks.com: The Pacers are currently 1st in scoring defense in the NBA, but 28th in scoring offense. Is that mostly due to pace of play, or are there other factors?
SA: The Pacers aren’t great on the fast break and have been terrible from long-range this season. They like to bring it down the court and work the ball inside-out. They don’t play a run-and-gun style like many teams do, nor will they fire up a ton of threes. A lot of their points come from the free throw line and out of sets. Paul George has come on strong in the last month and they are still waiting for Roy Hibbert, who received a maximum contract in the offseason, to show up on a consistent basis. The Pacers’ emphasis is on defense and their offense is still very much a work-in-progress.
Hawks.com: With Derrick Rose out for most of the season due to injury, is the Central Division the Pacers’ to lose?
SA: If healthy (like last year), I would agree. But now that Danny Granger is out indefinitely with a knee injury and Hill’s still not 100 percent, that’s no longer the case. They have upgraded the roster but as we’ve seen early, the chemistry is going to take some time. And don’t discount the Bulls. Even without Rose, they’re still a really good, hard-nosed team.
Hawks.com: Roy Hibbert made the All-Star team last season, and Granger has as well. Do you see any Pacers making the trip to Houston in February?
SA: Well, right now, none of the Pacers have been listed in the NBA returns for the game. I’m not a big All-Star guy because I believe it’s more of a popularity contest. The big market teams and big name players are always going to get the fan votes. Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrew Bynum, neither of which has played one minute this season, are 10th and 12th, respectively, in frontcourt East players. I do think David West merits heavy consideration for the way he’s played this season and carried the Pacers through the finish line in so many games—most recently, one week ago in New Orleans.
Hawks.com: What is it like having two Hansbroughs on the team at the same time?
SA: The most interesting thing is hearing Ben talk about Tyler, who is very quiet and to himself. Seven games ago when Ben had a nice game in his first night as the teams’ backup point guard, big brother Tyler sat back in his locker room chair and laughed at the attention Ben was receiving. Before that night, nobody asked to talk with him. With two Hansbroughs on the court, the intensity and physicality is raised. I’m sure they’re tired of the storyline but it’s a rare and neat story.
The Hawks and Pacers tip-off Saturday night at 7:00 at Philips Arena.