What We Learned About Indiana Pacers from Their Second-Round Playoff Series
The Indiana Pacers have been one of the most impressive stories in this year's playoffs.
They possess arguably the best defense in the league and are on the verge of getting to the Eastern Conference Finals.
So what exactly have we learned about the Pacers so far in the playoffs?
Pace dictates success
The Pacers learned early on in the playoffs this year that they need to slow down the pace and limit fast breaks.
When they were having success against the Atlanta Hawks in their first-round series, they did so by slowing down the game and keeping the Hawks' athletic bigs from running the court.
Against the New York Knicks, the Pacers have ratcheted up the pressure, turning the Knicks into an isolation offense that routinely is stuck with one-and-done possessions.
By slowing down the offense, the Pacers have been able to take away easy transition buckets and forced the Knicks into even more pressure situations.
The results have been epic, with players like Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton struggling to find their rhythm. It has even led to infighting and finger-pointing amongst the Knicks.
The Pacers are able to do this despite having two bigs who aren't overly athletic or quick.
Typically, this is a recipe for disaster in the transition game. But the Pacers utilize very athletic and quick wings Paul George and Lance Stephenson to limit the damage in transition, and point guard George Hill generally leaks out quickly on long attempts.
They also have figured out that the half-court perimeter game leads to long rebounds and fast-breaks, so they have cut down on their low-percentage shots.
The Pacers have the best frontcourt in the East
The biggest key to the Pacers' excellent play thus far in the playoffs has been their ability to hammer the post and get easy buckets.
They aren't a strong perimeter-scoring team, and they don't generally get a lot of transition buckets.
But they can score down low like few teams can.
In fact, the combination of David West and Roy Hibbert has been so effective that the Pacers should feel confident going up against just about every team in the league, the Miami Heat included.
The Pacers have a traditional frontcourt tandem in West and Hibbert. They have a legit center, something few teams can boast, and a high-scoring power forward.
But most importantly, they have the ability to grind out easy hoops.
The Pacers have figured out that they can slow down the pace and pound the ball down low. This should be a winning recipe against just about every team in the league.
The key really is Hibbert. West can get his shot off against just about everyone, but Hibbert is a wild card. Sometimes he shows the potential to dominate, but other times he looks lackadaisical and disinterested.
Paul George is on the verge of stardom
Heading into this season, everyone knew Paul George was good.
In his first couple seasons, he showed glimpses of elite athleticism, but he operated largely in Danny Granger's shadow.
During the regular season, George stepped up and showed why he was a lottery pick three years ago. He upped his scoring to 17 points per game and became perhaps the best perimeter defender in the league not named LeBron.
However, in the postseason, George has stepped it up to a whole new level.
George started off the playoffs with a triple-double, and he has kept his foot on the gas. His rebounding has been incredible, and he has been finding open teammates for easy hoops.
Sure, his shooting has been inconsistent during the playoffs, but that is more of a byproduct of a Pacers offense that often is clunky in the half court. They don't have great perimeter shooters, so a slasher like George doesn't always have room to operate.
What has been truly amazing about George has been his leadership. He has taken on the role of the alpha on this team, choosing to guard the opponent's best player every game and taking over on offense when he needs to.
We knew before the playoffs that George was good. Now, we are watching him become a star right before our very eyes.
This team is dangerous
Before the playoffs, some thought that the Knicks were the only team in the Eastern Conference that could challenge the Miami Heat.
Now, the Pacers have emerged as a strong contender.
With their size, defense and rebounding ability, they cannot be overlooked in a matchup with the champs.
Additionally, they boast the only perimeter defender that could give LeBron James even a semblance of difficulty on both ends.
What has been truly amazing is that this team is winning despite playing without the face of its franchise for the last several years, Danny Granger.
The Pacers also are doing it without a consistent three-point threat on the perimeter or an elite point guard.
This team is a throwback to the old NBA where a low-post offensive game, defensive prowess and rebounding dominance dictate victories.
If the Pacers are able to continue their ascent this year, they could challenge the new-school thinking about basketball and help bring back the idea that size does matter in the NBA.
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