George at heart of Indy’s problems

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: Brent Barry, Dennis Scott and Matt Winer examine the Pacers’ fall

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’ll turn over our weekly spot here to NBA TV research ace Kevin Cottrell, who lays out the problem with the reeling Indiana Pacers in the simplest of terms:

They. Can’t. Score.

Here’s Cottrell:

​Entering the season, the Indiana Pacers were pegged as the biggest threat to dethrone the defending champion Miami Heat. Coming off a disappointing Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference finals, the Pacers made their ultimate goal clear.

​“Our focus is to be getting Game 7 on our home court,” David West told reporters at Pacers Media Day.

If home court was goal 1A, enhancing their ability to light up a scoreboard should have been 1B for the Pacers. Heading into Monday night’s matchup with the West leading San Antonio Spurs, Indy posted a 33-4 record at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But the Pacers are averaging only 97.0 points a game, which ranks 23rd in the league.

Many believe the Pacers’ stingy defense is more than enough to win a title, but the numbers say otherwise. In the Pacers’ five games prior to hosting the Spursthey held opponents to 87.0 points a game. But the Pacers have failed to score 80 points in five of their last six games. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last team to do so was the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats, who set the NBA record for lowest winning percentage in a season (7-59).

So what’s the issue?  Pacers “Do-It-All” Forward Paul George is the team’s only legitimate scoring threat. George is averaging a career high 21.7 points a game, a whopping 7.6 points more than the second leading scorer, Lance Stephenson (14.1). Without a true 1-2 scoring punch, George’s offensive efficiency directly affects the Pacers’ win-loss column. The Pacers started the season 16-1 and George entered the MVP discussion.

Since then, George (and the Pacers’ production) has been on a steady decline month-to-month (see chart below).

Month PPG FG% 3FG% Indy record
Oct 28.0 48-6 41-2 2-0
Nov 23.0 47.2 40.3 13-1
Dec 24.1 46.8 39.4 10-4
Jan 21.3 41.0 31.5 10-5
Feb 21.0 40.1 39.5 9-3
March 18.7 37.2 29.7 8-10
Total 21.7 42.5 36.0 52-23

​Placing all the blame on George’s jump shot may not be fair, but it is accurate. Take a look at the last five NBA Champions (below). It’s no coincidence that all five scored at high clip. Furthermore, each team featured potent scorers: LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant. In the event one of the three aforementioned struggled on a given night, Dwyane Wade, Jason Terry and Pau Gasol could pick up the scoring load.

While some believe defense wins championships, the best teams, especially recently, always have big-scoring offenses.

  • 2012-13:​  Heat ​​102.9 (5)
  • 2011-12:  ​Heat 98.5 (7)
  • 2010-11:  ​Mavericks ​100.2 (11)
  • 2009-10: ​ Lakers ​​101.7 (12)
  • 2008-09: ​ Lakers ​​106.9 (3)

​If the Pacers’ lack of scoring is their biggest hurdle, their ability to win on the road is a close second. After a 40-12 start, Indiana is 12-11 since the All-Star Break. Nine of the 11 losses have come away from the Fieldhouse. Combine their road woes with the fact that they’ve been held to 92.7 points a game since the mid-season break and you’ll find a recipe for an early playoff exit.

The way things are shaping up, the Pacers will likely face the Bulls and/or Heat in an attempt to win the East. Indiana is a combined 0-3 on the road against those two, with an April 11th meeting in Miami on NBA-TV still to go. Ironically, the Pacers may have to win a regular-season game in Miami for a chance to host a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference finals.

Defense has been the Pacers calling card, but winning it all without scoring is rare. If they manage to capture a title despite scoring 96.8 points a game, the Pacers would become the first team to win the title averaging 97 points or less since the 2004-05 Spurs (96.2). Even the Spurs organization, which places an emphasis on defense, currently averages 105.6 points a game. If the Pacers learned anything from their Monday night loss to the Spurs, it’s that the best defense may be a good offense.

22 Comments

  1. Soul Man says:

    It looks pretty bad but once the playoffs begin the players will come around

  2. johnny dawson says:

    Lance needs to step it up.

  3. Kevin says:

    They are just playng backwards on offense now that George and Stephenson have evolved.
    They play outside-in now, instead of inside-out.
    Once they traded Granger, i knew they wouldn’t be the same team.

  4. Keaira says:

    Preach Matt!!!

  5. KDfan says:

    I have 2 points to make.
    1. The Pacers will bounce back.
    2. Bones, what the heck do you mean that the Pacers crowd understand basketball? The rest of us are idiots? And if the Pacers crowd did understand basketball where were they when their team needed them? As per 3D, the crowd was quiet. Bones, come to OKC and we’ll show you how it’s done here.

  6. jake s. says:

    I really hope PG gets it together. I don’t want OKC to have to play Miami again in the finals.

  7. Matt says:

    kobe, who exactly did Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, or Magic Johnson have join “their” respective teams? Larry had McHale and Parish because of a trade during the draft which also resulted in them drafting McHale. Michael had Scottie because of a trade during the draft. Horace Grant was because of the draft. Kukoc was drafted. Kareem was part of the Lakers before Magic arrived. Worthy was drafted by the Lakers. So, please, enlighten us as to who came and “joined” these guys because they WANTED to play with them? Name one All-Star or future Hall of Famer.

    kobe, you also forget the situation LeBron was in while he was in Cleveland. There wasn’t any chance for another star to sign with that team. The front office in Cleveland never did anything worth while when LeBron was there. The reason LeBron went to Miami was because the timing was right and the team had the cap space. There could of been several other teams LeBron could have signed with but chose Miami because playing with the right players is key to success. No one man, regardless of their greatness, has won an NBA championship by himself. There will always be a need for a second and third option and the right role players.

    LeBron was unfortunate in the sense he was never surrounded with good pieces in Cleveland and the front office seemed like they couldn’t of cared less.

    • DRAGONFORMVP says:

      Wilt Chamberlain might be the sole exception to “no one man, has won an NBA championship by himself” #exception for every rule

      • CARLITO says:

        OH MY… WILT didn’t had a chance to win until he joined the LAKERS.. he was always beaten by BILL RUSSEL even if he was scoring 50 every game… so again, doesn’t matter how great u are, its a team sport..

      • cpt g says:

        @Carlito………duh….look up 1967 nba champs. hint 76ers

  8. Jason says:

    The Pacers entered the season feeling they could win it all with what they had and Larry Bird was going to be exec of the year. The Pacers are not a veteran team, just look at the things they place emphasis on – being the no.1 seed etc. Being not a very mature team, but filled with talent, bird should not have messed with the chemistry of the team. Trading Granger and getting Bynum tells a team who thought they were good enough that, guess what, management thinks they need to make some changes because you aren’t as good. That plays on players minds and they don’t play as selfless because they are no longer as connected. Chemistry is important for any championship run and the trades I believe affected the Pacers locker room more than people think. Remember, they are not a veteran locker room and they do not have a veteran coach.

  9. Eaham says:

    Paul george is still 23 years old. He will be fine. I dont think Miami is gonna make it this year. They got bailed out by ray allen last year for that repeat. Other than oden, I dont see what significant changes Miami has made to their team to deal wiht the Size problem and PG issue. If you have tony parker dropping 30 on you every time you face spurs and Oldman duncan dropping more than 20, then Miami is not going anywhere this season. The league adjusted well to miami and a 3peat would be amazing, but I dont see it happening. Especially with Wade and his knees, and old men bench. Is battier even playing anymore, is ray allen even gona be a factor on defense lol ? Oh right lets save money and let go of Mike miller, the only decent young guy we have because we refuse to pay tax, cheap dwarves

    • Witness says:

      NO sorry they didnt get “bailed out”. They WORKED HARD for their back to back titles. But keep on hatin!! haha

  10. Mario says:

    I always thought the trade of Danny Granger to the Sixers was a TERRIBLE trade. Granger brought the scoring punch from the bench that Indy needs. Larry Bird, you failed this one!

    • Arkh says:

      Not exactly the scoring punch as his numbers were almost a non-factor (as almost all of the Pacers’ bench…) but it did have a tremendous impact on Stephenson by bringing Turner who is a threat for him in Free Agency.

      Thus, you can see that for a good while Stephenson hasn’t averaged the good APG numbers he once had, and since Hill is not an offense-running PG, they struggle big time in scoring.

  11. kobe says:

    hahahaa..good one..so called king who had to join two superstars to win a ring..like MJ BIRD MAGIC SIR CHARLES SAID ..if u r the best player in the league (WHICH HE IS) U HAVE PLAYERS JOIN U NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND ..AND HOW LONG HAVE U BEEN A MIAMI FAN? THATS WHAT I THOUGHT..TYPICAL BAND WAGON HEAT FAN

  12. theholyspectator says:

    i remember how paul george a few months back said he wants lebron to be his mentor…LOL…really? this guy is a mess right now…he has a lot of growing up to do….hes got the talent, just need some more failures to become successful…every great failed their way to success..a simple game 7 loss isnt gonna be enough..oh well it was fun while it lasted…pacers just didnt properly pace themselves..but a good lesson learned…funny how they got beat to the number 1 seed by a team who has had multiple injuries and 30 different line up changes…pacers are all talk..but they make great entertaining news

  13. LOLakers says:

    Doesnt matter! Miami 10-peat! Paul George can go play pretend superstar all day long! The real king of the NBA is Lebron James and he will win the ring every year until he gets bored of playing!

    • LAKERSLAKERSLAKERS says:

      that’s an LOL……..salary cap, father time play a big part

      • LJ6 lightsout required says:

        that is true to be fair……. dont forget the injury bug….. if it bites you really hard then we are talking about a different story

      • cpt g says:

        @lakers father time? injury bug? salary cap? Sounds like the worst team in LA. The lakers are screwed, Nash is done (except for the money) and how about that nice contract for kobe . Hard to compete with a salary cap in place isn’t it? It will be 5 years till the lakers compete in the west now that there is a level playing field.