The Pacers’ Odd Recipe for Near-Undefeatedness
Though they have won 12 games this season and lost just one, the Pacers have rarely been dominant for any full 48-minute period. In fact, in 13 games, they have led at the half just three times.
So instead of running roughshod over the competition all game long, they have generally followed an eerily repeatable recipe for success.
Step 1 – Play first quarter to taste
Step 2 – Get manhandled in second quarter
Step 3 – Perform secret Pagan ritual at halftime — perhaps involving an animal sacrifice
Step 4 – Crush the opponent’s soul in the third quarter.
Step 5 – Win
That’s my guess anyway. The other possibility is that Frank Vogel and his minions are big fans of the rope-a-dope strategy employed by Muhammad Ali vs. Foreman in the ”Rumble in the Jungle.”
Of the 10 times in 13 games that the Pacers have trailed at the half, they have won nine times by controlling the second half. In friday’s rendition of this script, for example, Indiana hung a 25-8 third quarter on the Celtics en route to a 55-32 second half and a 97-82 victory.
That beatdown in Boston – on its own – isn’t particularly mystifying. The Celtics are young, undersized and clearly rebuilding. Matters for them weren’t helped any when they lost Kelly Olynyk to injury, but even with the rookie center, they really are no match for Indiana right now.
Pacers Performance by Quarter, First 13 Games 2013-14
stats via NBA.com
But, the overall consistency of this type of cycle may be some cause for concern. In the their only loss this season – at Chicago – the Pacers were out of it by halftime. And overall, Indiana’s first-half offense is scoring an abysmal 89.1 points per 100 possessions. Worse still, just look at the second-quarter numbers so far: 82.2 points per 100 (and 42.5% eFG) that has lead to a net rating of -18.2 points per 100.
Contrast this with their jaw-dropping 115.9 per 100 after the break — not too mention net ratings of 29.6 and 22.5 points per 100, respectively, in the third and fourth quarters.
Indiana’s success despite their poor first-half play has been aided by an easy schedule – the second-easiest, with an opponent winning percentage of.403, according to ESPN’s standard SoS calculation. In most of these games, the Pacers have hovered close to their weak opposition throughout the first half then simply asserted their superiority in the second. That’s not going to work against top teams – as painfully demonstrated in Chicago against a Bulls team that still had Derrick Rose.
The Pacers, themselves, are aware of the issue. When asked if it seemed strange having a lead at halftime of the win over Philly, Paul George laughed, and said, “A little bit.” On a more serious note, George continued, “We’re still learning that we’re winning games, and we’re nowhere close to where we want to be. We’ve yet to play a full 48 minutes of basketball.”
Still, they are 12-1, and it’s good to succeed while still having clear areas to improve.