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...and please, no, "I'm positive we'll read another negative story in the papers about the Pacers and another night club incident, or another Pacers w/a drug related offense, or I'm positive they need to make a trade soon, or another loss." I think we've had enough of that stuff already. Despite their recent loss to the Suns and David Harrison's stupidity (stupid because medical science still hasn't proved that there are any addictive properties in marijuna, so that SNAFU* was all his), there are some positives I think we can take from their last game moving forward into their next four games and beyond.
The smaller lineup actually works for the Pacers. It's been my opinion since the team played its 20th game that they hadn't been playing at the tempo the team has been designed to play which, of course, is a faster pace. I think JOB has slowed things down just a bit on purpose. He's talked over and over about the importance of the wings running w/the PG and of the importance of team defense. It's become apparent to me that the players he had hoped would be part of the ingredients toward this team's success moving forward just haven't panned out, i.e., Ike and Harrison, and since Murphy plays more like a SF/SG than a PF/C it's hard to get him to bang underneath to become a force in the paint. But it's because he can hit the "3" that he's been out there w/JO in the hopes of pulling the defense away from the basket and allowing JO to work underneath. Problem here is JO hasn't been 100% since Day-1. Still, w/o him the team has not interior defensive force. And although JO's not regularly scoring in the upper teams/lower 20's, he's still commanding the double-team which means the defense respects his game (whether we like it or not...his game, that is).
So, we're somewhat limited in what we can do in the front-court. That leaves the backcourt. Murphy, Dunleavy, Granger, Williams, Rush, Owens, Deiner and to a degree Tinsley and Quis can all hit the 3-pt shot. That's 9 playes capable of being a threat from the perimeter. But the only players making that shot with any regularity has been Owens, Dunleavy, Granger and Williams. Rush is starting to come along; I think once he rounds out his game just a little bit more we'll start seeing him knock it down with more consistency. During the course of a game you want that 3-pt threat out there, and this team has the firepower to do it. No, not consistently, but they can do it. I think JOB had it right when he decided to go with a smaller lineup and return to using Deiner as the B/U-PG because w/him and Tinsley pushing the ball they can better setup any of our shooters on catch-n-shoot players (also referred as "stop-n-pop") or find the trailing Wingman in transition. However, I would causing going with this game plan in the closing minutes of games because missed 3-balls that bounce high off the rim usually result in defensive rebounds and the score for the other team in transition. So, that leaves me with the final ingredient I think will help make this team more successful moving forward as the roster currently stands and that is dribble penetration.
It's apparent the Pacers tend to take too many jump shots in crutch-time. Part of that is they rely too much on two players for lane penetration instead of allowing the athleticism of other players who can make baseline cuts or penetrate the lanes in transition work to their advantage. The "two" players I'm referring to are Tinsley and Quis. The "other" players I'm referring to are Dunleavy, Granger and Rush. All three have shown the ability to come off curls, baseline screens or get inside the defense and get to the baseket. Even Owens has done it consistently. His problem, however, is he can't seem to finish the play once he gets to the rim. (I think he's only converted on one layup all season! But you gotta give him credit for persistants; he's never given up trying!!) The biggest problem here is players haven't figured out quite yet how to effective read the defense and know when to take that jump shot and when to take it to the hole! The only players I've observed who have figured it out are Tinsley, Dunleav, Owens and Rush. I think if the team gets better at reading the defense they'll start driving the lanes more particularly in end-game situations and stop relying so heavily on jump shots. Of course, the other side of that coin is the lanes have to be clear, and unless you've got that big body down low to make room you're not getting to the rim with any kind of effectiveness. Hence, one of the primary reasons JO is still a part of this team which obviously goes in contrast to what many fans want. Sorry, folks. But JO is here to stay (for a while anyway).
Going smaller will help this team play to their strength which is to push the tempo in order to get more quality shots. Once they can truly establish themselves as a threat from the field, they can go inside either with more post-up play or start driving the lanes more. But it starts with the team AND COACHES committing to the game plan we were promised at the start of the season. For what it's worth, I think JOB is done tinkering w/the lineups. We'll obviously see less of Harrison, and I'm sure the same can be said of Ike and Owens, too, although I think the later two players will get playing time in certain situations. I'm convinced the focus will shift to playing at a faster and slowly working the interior w/emphasis, of course, on team defense. Over the course of the last ten games, I've noticed the defense has gotten better. If players will commit to running and can knock down their shots, I think this team can begin to move up the standings.
*SNAFU: Situation Normal All Fouled (or F**ked) Up! If you've ever served in the military, you know this one. If not, well, now you know.