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The Pacers’ January Defensive Letdown
In recapping the Pacers loss to the Magic, I tried to illustrate just how poorly the Pacers have been playing on the defensive end of late. Here’s a refresher.
They have given up at least 97 points in each of the past six outings, a stretch of futility during which they have allowed an average of 108.7 points per game. The FG% defense isn’t any better with an average FG% allowed of 49.0%. The one good showing came up in Portland, where they held the Blazers to 42.2%, but the other five squads have all shot north of 45% — with four of them finishing above the 50% mark. (The worst was the 54.3% allowed to the Clippers.) And they haven’t been much better protecting the perimeter, giving up at least 10 threes in each of their last three games.
This is weird because the team was excellent defensively in November and still borderline elite throughout December. But now, it seems as if the team has begun to concentrate so much on repairing its broken offense that they lost focus on the one thing that could help turn this season around.
Mike Wells decided to ask the team exactly what is going on.
“It’s like we’re overly concerned with our offense because it’s been a struggling point for us, that we’re slipping on defense,” swingman Mike Dunleavy said. “We need to get back to defending the way we’re capable of.”We just need to worry about the offense secondarily, because I think we’ve tried so hard to solve that, we’ve neglected the defense and now we’re not doing either one well.”
Danny Granger identified what is the most obvious reason for the recent defensive futility: Roy Hibbert has not played well enough to keep himself on the court, and the team is much harder to score on when he is clogging up the interior.
“Roy hasn’t been playing a lot lately,” forward Danny Granger said. “Roy used to give us a back line of defense when teams would drive on us. We’ve also had so many different lineup changes, too. That plays a part in messing up our schemes.”
Regardless of the “why?” question, the team now looks to have a below average defense to go along with one of the worst offenses in the league. A lot of teams have made the playoffs with a terrible offense and a high-level defense. Conversely, a lot of other teams have made the playoffs with a high-level offense and a terrible defense.
But to my knowledge, no teams have ever made the playoffs with both a terrible offense and a terrible defense. And I don’t see that trend changing — so the Pacers are going to have to pick it up on at least one side of the ball if they want to play more than 82 games this season.