Hello all. Once again I want to post a few thoughts on some observations from some little, mostly unnoticed Pacer strategies from games 2 & 3, both of which I missed parts of due to work. However, I saw enough things that I havent seen discussed yet on here that I wanted to bring them up, and to ask a question or 2 of my own for those who have an eye for things like this.
I mentioned in my analysis of game 1 that a big question I had going into game 2 was: How would we would handle success in the opener? I was disappointed but not overly surprised that we fell in this instance by coming out a little flat and lethargic. To be good, a team not only has to develop the toughness to handle adversity, but the concentration and maturity to handle success. We failed that handling success part of it, but bounced right back in game 3 with a road win. Now, our team is back home for a few days before playing again on Tuesday night....will we learn anything?
In the game against New Orleans, I actually thought we got decent shots for the most part, but failed to recognize why that was. Against the sagging New Orleans defense, we took open perimeter shots, but what we didnt realize is the reason we were open is that New orleans thought we couldnt make a high percentage, and they were right. Those long range misses led to easier baskets on the other end, and failed to pressure the interior defense of the Hornets, particularly the poor defending Peja. Our guys have got to learn the difference between taking a GOOD shot, and taking a GOOD ENOUGH shot. I thought with a little more patience we'd have been much more effective against the Hornets.
The thing I took from this game the most however from a strategic standpoint was our defending of the Hornets pick and roll. For big parts of this game, the Pacers tried to trap the ballhandler, and I absolutely LOVE that idea....its exactly what Id do against the Hornets and most every other team in the league. Unfortunately, we werent very good at it. Our trappers didnt attack the ballhandler hard enough and let him dribble out of it at times, and our rotations away from the ball were slower and more unsure than id expect. It looked like the pacers had decided to trap that screen/roll sometime before on gameday, and hadnt properly practiced it or prepared the team enough. I hope however that we go back to it, because that in my view is the single best way, most consistent way, to play that defensively....it wasnt the idea, it was the execution of it that was bad.
In game 3 against the Knicks, I was very happy RC decided to stick with the same lineup, after calling out Harrington and Granger a little bit after the loss. I think its fine to use the media to your advantage to send a message, but then you have to play those guys to see if it got through or not. Clearly, I thought not just those 2 but the rest of the squad was more focused and energetic, although I'm not sure our level of play was all that different, just our intensity. Interestingly, I think it was a different kind of mental game on RC's part to be critical of in my guess are 2 of the most well liked guys in the locker room (just my guess about that.) That reminded me of my coaching days when I really would get on a popular, tough minded kid very hard at times, not just to be mean to him but to get thru to the rest of the players, who maybe couldnt mentally take the criticism as well as that other tougher player. For instance, RC mildly being critical of Jackson, Oneal, Sarunas, or Harrison in the press might have an entirely different reaction by the team and the individual players than doing the same thing to Harrington and Granger. As a matter of fact, I wouldnt be surprised if that entire episode was staged just a bit.....meaning RC might have forewarned Harrington and / or Danny he was going to do that. I'm not positive about any of that, but it makes sense to me, and if its true I think its a very clever ploy by Carlisle to do things like that.
The strategic moves in this game were the playing of the zone defense and the offensive scheme in the second half. (I missed the first half and only listened on the radio while driving home). I'll get to the zone in a minute, but for now lets talk about the Pacers half court offense a little, and the "Isiah" factor for the Knicks.
I'd already charted out and drawn the Pacers favorite set play from games 1 & 2....the "screen the screener flex action" along the baseline out of a pairs set, with a flare screen outside for our point guard. We ran that a ton of times in both the first 2 games, and I can only assume we ran it alot in the first half of game 3. However, to begin the 3rd quarter the Pacers ran a wing screen/roll for Tinsley and Harrington out of a very creative yet basic box set. This was easy for me to draw, because the Pacers ran this 5 straight times to begin the half, and numerous times the rest of the game, eventually expanding it to the other side of the floor and using different players. If I had a telestrator it would be easier to describe, but let me say it was effective in its design. How it worked for Harrington was that he recieved a diagonal downscreen himself, causing the Knicks defense to have to react to that action. Then, Harrington would continue his flash to the basketball and set a middle ballscreen for Tinsley (once again using the principle of screen the screener that RC loves so much). Anyway, the key to this screen being so effective is harrington really sprinting hard to the screen, leaving the man trying to guard him trailing it, and in no position to hedge very hard on Tinsley coming to the middle of the floor. Tinsley was great at going to the middle, and then hitting Harrington on the "fade" after ballscreening, ending up somewhere on the right wing area. Tinsley repeatedly passed the ball back to the wide open Harrington for a variety of open shots, including one 3 pointer in a very quick span.
The Pacers eventually began running this to the other side of the floor as well, with a variety of ballhandlers and JO as the screener. Again, the bewildered Knick defense had no answer, as we scored almost every time we ran this particular set play. To his credit, RC kept "picking the scab", running it over and over and over until the Knicks finally adjusted.
Finally, after seeing this for about 18 minutes or so, Isiah finally had his guards push the ballhandler toward the baseline and away from the screen when we ran this. This happened somewhere in the mid 4th quarter, and at this point we had ran it lots in this quarter too, with Sarunas as the ballhandler in this case. This adjustment actually worked a couple of times, as Runi was forced to break the play off and try and create something unplanned. Unfortunately for New York, the stupidly fouled Sarunas a couple different times, and when we were forced to take a bad shot out of this play ( a rare occasion), it was those possessions where Granger got offensive rebounds for us.
So, after 3 games, the Pacers have shown in my mind 2 signature plays so far. These are plays apparently the Pacers can "hang their hat on" it would appear. You may remember me starting a thread a few months ago wondering what set play would become our bread and butter play, apparently these are 2 of them so far.
For those of you who saw us in the zone more than I did, please if possible in this thread tell me how we looked in it, how we were aligned, who was playing, and how did the zone shift? I suggested in a zone thread earlier in the summer a 3-2 point zone used alot back in the day by Dr Tom Davis at Iowa....I assume we didnt actually use my exact idea, but I am curious what we exactly did from a technical standpoint, and how we looked doing it.
As we go into the second week, its important that we keep being positive about this team, and start developing some patience....we are a work in progress but I basically like what I see so far. Clearly, we have a long way to go, but the enthusiasm, teamwork, and the coaching adjustments of the Pacers have me intrigued about this team's potential, while being realistic with my expectations. We need to grow up a little as a team and win this first home game back, which I think we will. I can tell you that my gambler friend who I mentioned in my last thread called to make sure I was aware of his "first game back home after a road trip theory" with the pacers, and how they lost a lot of games in that circumstance last season. Its time we show we can play well twice in a row, and put some wins against these bad teams in the bank while we can.
As always, all this is JMO.