Early Returns on New Offense Encouraging
By Conrad Brunner | Oct. 18, 2004
The early returns for the tweaked offensive system have been positive. In their first preseason game with the full starting lineup, the Pacers racked up 108 points and shot .582 from the field while winning in Memphis on Saturday night.
Even including an 85-84 win over Washington in the preseason opener, a game played without the services of All-Star forwards Jermaine O'Neal and Ron Artest, the statistics reflect well on the progress of the offense. The Pacers are shooting .511 from the field and averaging 23.0 assists.
The next test comes Tuesday night when the Pacers play host to Minnesota in Conseco Fieldhouse (7:00 p.m., WIBC AM-1070).
"We're doing some things better and there are still some things we need to get better with," said Coach Rick Carlisle. "I like the way we're playing, for the most part. Having said that, we're two wins into an exhibition season that's really meaningless, in the grand scheme of the season. It's really about how well you do things that you know your team needs to do before you get ready to play in the regular season.
"We'll keep looking at guys and different possible rotations and stuff. I'm not going to get too excited about a couple of exhibition wins and I'm not going to get too down if we lose a couple, either. We just need to get ourselves ready to play come Nov. 3 (the regular-season opener in Cleveland)."
The Pacers averaged 91.4 points per game last season, 20th in the NBA and a franchise record-low. The goal isn't necessarily to become a high-scoring team, but to increase the efficiency but improving the quality of the shots. To do so, changes have been made to increase ball movement, player movement and spacing. There is also a push to take advantage of transition opportunities when they are presented.
"This offense wasn't put in to score 100 points a game. It was put in to get good shots and get everybody a shot," said O'Neal. "Hopefully, guys will work on their shots so that when they get the opportunity in the game they'll knock 'em down. If we knock 'em down, the way this offense should be run, we should score a lot of points. But that's not our goal, to go out and outscore people.
"We beat people last year without scoring that many points and we won 61 games. Obviously, if we get a little more of an up-tempo offense to go with our defense, we can be really good this year."
Of course, two preseason games hardly offer enough evidence to reach a conclusion about the new system. But the players have been encouraged by what they've seen to this point.
"The spacing is a lot better," O'Neal said. "There's a lot of moving everywhere. It looks good right now but we have to continue to build."
Minnesota certainly can offer a challenge to any offense. The Timberwolves are 2-1 on the preseason, allowing opponents averages of 85.0 points and .389 field-goal shooting. These teams will meet again in Bismarck, ND, on Saturday night. The Pacers also have another game with Memphis and two with Denver remaining, so the preseason schedule offers a strong measuring stick.
"This is a good opportunity for us in the preseason," said Carlisle. "We play Memphis twice, who's a playoff team. We play Minnesota twice, who is one of the top teams in the West. We play Denver twice, who's a playoff team and is considered a team that can contend in the West. You've got to take advantage of those types of opportunities in the exhibition season to get a gauge for where you are."
Fast Breaks …
First-round pick David Harrison will miss Tuesday night's game, and likely Saturday night's rematch with the Timberwolves, pending the results of an MRI on his injured right shoulder. … Forward Jonathan Bender will miss his third consecutive preseason game with lingering knee pain. … Austin Croshere, who sat out Sunday's public intrasquad scrimmage with a sprained ankle, was back at practice Monday and is expected to play.