What's Keeping the Indiana Pacers from Contending for the NBA Championships?
For just the second time in the illustrious short history of the Big Three, an Eastern Conference team held a series lead over the Miami Heat. The capable culprits? The unlikely elite unit of the Indiana Pacers.
Led by their smothering defense and interior dominance, the Indiana Pacers were just two games away from their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2004. The question is, what was it that spelled the upstart Pacers' undoing?
Fortunately for fans of the franchise that Jack McKinney once made famous, each of the three major hurdles hold a realistic possibility of being overcome.
To begin the process of recovery and resurgence, the Indiana Pacers must not abort what has taken them furthest. With David West and Roy Hibbert coming into their own as low-post partners, the Pacers' greatest source of scoring must be milked.
While West and Hibbert may not have posted the shooting percentages or point per game averages to support this claim, their progression over the span of the season must not be overlooked. The two were efficiently picking the Heat apart when given the ball in the post, offering the Pacers their most efficient form of offense.
Unfortunately, the Indiana Pacers quickly aborted what worked and settled for what they were familiar with.
Throughout their series with the Miami Heat, the team wasted possession after possession with long, and often contested, jump shots. While Danny Granger and Paul George are certainly players who deserve the ball in their hands, head coach Frank Vogel too often appeared reliant upon their abilities.
Can the Indiana Pacers win a title with their current roster?
Their shooting the ball, of course, was not the issue. It was how the shots were set up that led to inefficient shooting and eventual runs by the Miami Heat that were simply insurmountable. These wasted opportunities came as a result of weak ball distribution and a lack of flow or chemistry between teammates, which leads to stage 2 of our recovery process.
The Indiana Pacers must find consistency at the point guard position. While both George Hill and Darren Collison brought a mix of quality pace and transition buckets, neither was able to lead the offense in an adequate way. Instead, they dumped the ball off to their first moving teammate.
Sounds like a good plan, doesn't it? Not when you consider the fact that moving doesn't mean open.
What the Pacers need in 2013 is a player who can run the pick-and-roll with their potentially elite front court. They also need a point guard who can orchestrate an offense beyond the basic motion offense, thus placing their teammates in position for open looks and secondary passes.
Whether or not George Hill and the recently acquired D.J. Augustin can do that has yet to be seen.
This leaves just one final piece of the puzzle. A piece that holds more value than any other in the Pacers' three stage fix. A fundamental necessity for any team to win.
The Indiana Pacers just have to remain on the damn floor.
In the Indiana Pacers' Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat, Danny Granger finished with four fouls, while both Roy Hibbert and George Hill tallied 5. Paul George ended up fouling out, leaving many to wonder if the Pacers could simply handle the pace of postseason basketball.
In the Pacers' Game 4 loss, both David West and Roy Hibbert committed five hacks. Game 6 was no different, as Granger committed five fouls and West committed four. The Pacers' other three starters each committed three.
Even in victory, those numbers were replicated.
While one could argue that the Heat would have won regardless, it's hard to argue the logic that a team with their key players on the floor are better than one with those very players on the bench. Should the Indiana Pacers hope to make a title push at any point in the near future, that's the most important fact they must keep in mind.
The ball is in Frank Vogel's court. How will the coach preach these findings?
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