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The Pacers have had a noticeable pattern to the past few seasons. Perhaps you may remember our customary late season run at the ninth seed while rattling off wins. There is also the memorable early season victory. Two seasons ago it was Danny’s tooth game against the Celtics. Last season it was another remarkable game against Boston. This season’s game was the near perfect 3rd quarter game against the Nuggets. The topic of this article is another part of the pattern: our woes between games 10-20.
In ’08-’09 we went 3-8 in this stretch. I noticed “it” in the overtime session of the 11/21/08 home loss against Orlando. In ’09-’10 we went 2-9. I noticed “it” in an ugly 11/25/09 home win against the Clippers.
What is “it”? It is the moment where our team reaches a collective fatigue. It’s a fatigue that occurs as our team conditioning meets the culmination of games at a frenetic pace for which there is no conditioning substitute.
Looking back at the numbers from the ’08-’09 season, our team was shooting 45.6% and allowing*42.3% through 10 games. In games 10-20 we shot 44.7% while allowing 46.5%.
In the ’09-’10 season, we were shooting 44.2% and allowing 43.5% through 10 games. In games 10-20 we shot 42.6% while allowing 45.1%.
As fatigue sets in, our offense begins to stall and we start taking jumpshots. This leads to more rebounds and more transition opportunities. On defense, we start dropping our arms and get lazy when teams begin to execute. It’s not quite as simple as this, but I see these as crucial reasons why our shooting percentages decrease while our opponents’ percentages increase. I briefly covered this a couple of years ago.
We also see the performances of some individual players wane. In ’08-’09 it was T.J. Ford. And while it was his defense that disappeared, his FG% dropped from 43.7% to 40.5%, points dropped from 156.4 to 13.2, and assists dropped from 5.8 to 4.7. Last season it was Roy Hibbert. His FG% dropped from 55.5% to 41.3%, points from 11.9 to 7.2, rebounds from 8.7 to 3.8, and blocks from 2.2 to 1.1.
Should we be wary of the next 10-20 games? Yes. I think the warning signs are already there. We’ve seen our offensive discipline disappear more and more each game as we increase our jump shots. We’ve seen some individual players struggling with fatigue (Collison), and we have a tough schedule coming up in the next ten games.
Are there differences between this season and the past? Yes. We’re healthier, O’Brien has been conscious about getting a reduction in minutes to some players and it looks like our defense is showing signs of improvement.
But as we’ve seen, there is a definite pattern to our team. I’m hoping this is the season we break it, but I’m not holding my breath.