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Game 15 Preview: Pacers vs. Blazers

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A Look at the Pacers

Indiana has been on a roller coaster so far this year, going 7-8 with little rhyme or reason to their performance.  They have losses to the Clippers, Charlotte, Cleveland, and the Lakers.  They have wins against Utah, Dallas, and Denver.  When they're hot they're hot.  When they're not...you know.

Certain things might surprise you about this year's Pacers.  For instance Mike Dunleavy, now starting at off guard, appears to be a key cog for them.  They are 4-0 when he leads the team in scoring.  For another Jermaine O'Neal, currently out because of knee issues but on a day-to-day status watch, is having a lousy year.  Playing 30 minutes a game he's averaging 13.2 ppg on .388 shooting.  That last number is abysmal for a big man...we're talking Linda Blair spitting pea soup scary.  It's hard to tell whether he's disillusioned, injured, or aging into irrelevance but his absence--virtual and literal--mires the team in mediocrity.  

The Pacers' leading scorer is Danny Granger, a third-year forward with a diverse offensive game.  He shoots 47%, scores 19 a game, and very definitely has range out to the three point line.  This guy is all Lamarcus' to guard without Outlaw serving as backup.  He'll toast anyone else we put on him.  Jamaal Tinsley appears to have gotten his head back on straight and is averaging just over 8 assists per game.  After that the Pacers just throw a lot of active guys at you:  Shawne Williams, Troy Murphy, Jeff Foster, David Harrison, and Marquis Daniels being among the names.

The problem for the Pacers all year has not been what they're able to do, it's what they allow opponents to do.  Case in point:  between Foster, Murphy, O'Neal, Dunleavy, and Tinsley they have a lot of really good rebounders at their positions.  Indeed, they have managed 44.8 total rebounds per game, second in the entire league to Cleveland.  But they allow their opponents 45.4 per game.  They score 102.8 a night, plenty enough to win...except they allow 105.4.  They shoot 43.5%, they allow 44.1%.  They hit .344 from three-point land, they allow .384.  They draw 27 foul shots per game, they give up 33.  About the only place they're truly dominant is in tempo.  They average more than 5 shots more than their opponents do.  This is an unsung stat in the modern NBA.  Those extra attempts allow a greater margin for error, a prized commodity for a team like this.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  The Pacers are 1-4 when scoring under 100.  If you limit their easy buckets they could well miss that mark tonight or in any given game.  Make them play a halfcourt game.  Get back in transition.  If they have to earn every point they get they'll probably fracture.
  2.  Lamarcus and Joel are going to get pounded by wave after wave of big men.  They're likely to get physical with Lamarcus too.   We must respond by being tough on the boards, keeping out of foul trouble, and pushing the tempo as best we can when our big guys need a rest.  If we do not show some guts they will win the inside battle by virtue of sheer numbers and if they dominate the inside battle we lose the game.
  3.  Teams have been game-planning to make Przybilla and Blake shoot the ball.  It's time to return the favor.  Make Jamaal Tinsley a scorer.  He can do it alright...39% shooting clip aside he's proven that through his career.  But they're going to be much less effective if he's not distributing.  Nobody else on the team shares all that well.
  4.  You remember that Mike Dunleavy who's a scoring threat for them now?  Make him pay for being out there on the court.  Bump him, trip him, most of all drive past his scrawny behind and expose his defense.  Whoever he's on should begin an immediate parade into the middle of the paint to see what adventures lie there.
  5.  Once you've penetrated, kick it to a guard or small forward for a jumper.  The Pacers won't recover onto them.
  6.  Aggression...aggression...aggression.  The Pacers will fold if you give them reason to.  On the other hand they will just as happily walk away with this game without breaking a sweat if you come passive.  We need fire in the eyes from the first minute and need to sustain that through both halves.
--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)