By the Numbers: 13 Down, 69 to Go
Who’s up for another installment of the By The Numbers series? There’s an odd (and completely unintended) symmetry to the fact that the last time I did this, there were 13 games left last season.
This has been the Pacers’ best start in franchise history. Their previous fastest to 12 wins was 14 games, achieved in both the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons. Those serve as nice reminders that there is still much to accomplish. The 2004 team won 61 games and eventually lost in the Eastern Conference Finals. The 2003 team fell apart under Isiah Thomas after the All-Star break, limping to 48 wins and a first-round ass kicking at the hands of Jim O’Brien’s Celtics.
The Pacers offense continues to lag behind their defense, but not as far this season. On November 25, 2012, Indiana was producing a paltry 96 points per 100 possessions — third worst in the NBA. This year, they are slightly above average at 101.8 per 100. A big part of that has to do with the addition of C.J. Watson.
Watson isn’t tearing things up, but he’s holding his own. The Pacers are scoring 100.2 per 100 with him on the floor, which is a marked improvement over the 97.3 per 100 they eked out with D.J. Augustin on the floor last season. Further, last season Indiana’s offensive efficiency dropped from 104.8/100 with four starters on the floor to 97.7/100 with three starters on the floor. This season, it actually increases from 104.1/100 to 115.8/100.
The Pacers were the best defensive team in the NBA last season. Nothing has changed. Teams are scoring at 90% of league average efficiency when they play the Pacers. After halftime … forget it. They’re allowing just a tick under 88 points per 100, which is about 86% of the league average.
The Pacers are 12-1, but they have played the easiest schedule in the league based on SoSHR (Strength of Schedule – Home/Road). However, that’s largely a function of playing in a craptacular Eastern Conference, and that reality won’t really change. December (.522) is the only month on their schedule where the current SoSHR is above .500. Despite having the “easiest” schedule, thus far it doesn’t balance out. They have the 4th easiest remaining schedule, and they’re currently trending towards the lowest SoSHR for the full season at .454.
The metric that drives the Pacers success defensively is defensive effective field goal percentage (Def eFG% – (FGM + 0.5 * 3FGM)/FGA). They are even more dominant in this category than they are in defensive efficiency, holding teams to .436 in a league that allows .496 without Indiana.
None are better.
+4.9/+2.7%/+3.1% vs. -3.7/-5.5%/-13.2%
If you want what I consider the strongest evidence of Paul George’s improvement, it is this grouping of numbers.
Those represent the changes in Paul’s output on the road in points per game, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage. Last year, George’s breakout performances came in The Fieldhouse. This year, they are coming away from home, including a Reggie-esque performance in the Garden last Wednesday. George is averaging almost 27 points on the road with an absolutely ridiculous .550 eFG%.
The best players bring it on the road.
Paul George has emerged as a possible MVP candidate. Roy Hibbert is striving to be Defensive Player of the Year. Lance Stephenson could be the Pacers’ fifth Most Improved Player. Coach Frank Vogel should be in the running for Coach of the Year. Should any or all of these men earn these individual honors, they deserve all the praise and credit normally due this level of achievement.
But this Pacer team is about the whole … the unit … The Five.
Last season, the now-familiar starting lineup of George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West, and Roy Hibbert was one of the best in the league. They outscored opponents during the regular season by 11.2 points per 48 minutes. In the playoffs, they upped that to 14.6 points per 48, including over 12 points per 48 in the Eastern Conference Finals vs. the Heat.
They’ve picked up where they left off last season, posting a +54 in their 187 minutes of playing time, or +13.9 per 48 minutes. They’re especially dominant after halftime, check out their Advance Metrics (courtesy of NBA.com).
In second halves this year, the Five has posted a net efficiency (points per 100 possession)s of +30.4. In third quarters, they are allowing fewer than 70 points per 100 possessions and holding opponents to .328 eFG% (.293 regular FG%).
The Five is this team’s Superstar.