There is a zero percent chance that the Indiana Pacers will win the Super Bowl, but they are still trying to cast themselves in the mold of the NFL champion Seattle Seahawks. Stout defense has been a winning formula judging by Indiana's league-leading D and the team's .796 winning percentage, so it's hard to argue with Paul George's comparison.
We approach it as a physical team and we do everything from a toughness standpoint. Like Seattle. Seattle's got individual guys that stand out defensively, as we do, and as a group we put it all together. We're a great comparison to that team because we do it from an individual standpoint and as a group.
The Pacers' bruising physicality nearly carried them to the NBA Finals last season, and they are set on another crash course with the Miami Heat in this year's playoffs. George is arguably the NBA's best two-way player not named LeBron James, and he comprises a fearsome tandem at forward with David West.
The Pacers have been ludicrously efficient on defense. Through 49 games, they are giving up a league-best 94 points per 100 possessions, via NBA.com. The second-best team in that category, the Chicago Bulls, allow 98.3 points per 100 possessions, a whopping 4.3-point gap. There are nine other teams within 4.3 points of the Bulls' mark.
As relayed by Glier, the Pacers defense operates on three principles: "Chase shooters off the three-point line" to send them to 7'2" rim-protector Roy Hibbert, "control the bounce of the ball from the other team's ball handlers" and "make the other team take long, contested two-pointers."
As Hibbert put it: "We want to make them take long contested twos, and those are the worst shots in basketball." That is why you see teams like the Houston Rockets take the vast majority of their shots either in the paint or behind the arc.
The Pacers D runs like a Swiss watch as shown by the league-leading point differential of plus-8.1 per game. On average, they allow 90.7 points, which sounds like a number from the mid-'90s. Opponents are shooting a league-low 41.4 percent against the Pacers, and they rank second in opponents' three-point percentage.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks smothered the highest-scoring offense in NFL history during their 43-8 thrashing of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. The basketball equivalent would probably be sweeping the Oklahoma City Thunder in the finals while armed with Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and a healthy Russell Westbrook.
You can actually credit coach Frank Vogel with raising the Seahawks comparison. He spoke to the team about the Super Bowl win and probably did so as a clandestine way of preaching about limiting turnovers, a category in which Indy's offense ranks 18th. According to Glier, Vogel said:
I just talked to them about how far a dominant defense can carry you and that your offense doesn't have to be dominant, but it can't beat themselves. That's what was striking about their Super Bowl victory to me. Not only did they dominate on the defensive end, but their offense had zero turnovers. That's something we have to improve in.
Emulating the Seahawks is a good aspiration to have, and the Pacers certainly look capable of such prowess. Now they just have to back it up by knocking off the Heat and the Western Conference champs in the playoffs.
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