Scouting Report: Indiana Pacers
The Hawks have dropped three in a row and their next opponent, the Indiana Pacers, will be one of their toughest tests of the season. The Pacers are the top team in the NBA at 27-6 thanks in large part to their league-leading defense that allows just 88.6 points per game. Led by Paul George and Roy Hibbert, they have stifled opponents holding them to 41.1% shooting from the field and 32.3% from three-point range.
Indiana’s defense is committed to defending the restricted area and corner threes (the two most efficient spots on the floor) and have been very effective defending those areas. In the restricted area, where Hibbert patrols, opponents shoot just 53.1%, well below league average (which is closer to 60%). On corner three-point attempts, opponents are shooting just 29.8%. Their ability to keep opponents from taking and making shots in those areas is key to their overall defensive success that forces opponents into shots from less efficient spots on the floor (mid-range and above the break three-pointers).
On offense, the Pacers are around league average with 97.6 points per game, but they control the pace of the game as well as any team in the NBA thanks to their tremendous defense. George is the catalyst on offense averaging 23.2 points per game (53.4 eFG%), 6.1 rebounds per game and 3.6 assists per game.
Lance Stephenson has really emerged this season and is Indiana’ second leading scorer with 13.4 points per game (54.3 eFG%) and has 6.5 rebounds and a team-high 5.1 assists per game. The Pacers have five players that average double-digit points per game. David West is still a terrific scoring power forward who has taken a lesser role in the offense this season but can still be extremely effective when needed.
The Pacers effectiveness comes from not only their starters’ success, but the consistency of their bench that maintains a strong defensive presence. Luis Scola was their biggest offseason acquisition and has been solid as their back-up power forward. The return of Danny Granger has been a huge boost to their bench unit’s success on offense, as he is beginning to return to form and gives them a primary scoring threat on the wing when George goes to the bench.
The Pacers are a terrific team that plays smart, team basketball. The most success teams have had against them has been in forcing turnovers and pushing the pace of the game in transition, while finding ways to draw Hibbert out of the paint in pick-and-roll/pop plays in the halfcourt. The Hawks, who have been struggling offensively recently, will have to be crisp in their halfcourt execution and will need Paul Millsap, Elton Brand, and Pero Antic to provide enough of a perimeter shooting threat to pull Hibbert away from the rim on defense to open up driving lanes for Jeff Teague, Lou Williams and Shelvin Mack.
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