Pacers use break to polish rough edges on offense
Jan. 16, 2012
Up until now, this has been the schedule of Allen Iverson's dreams: many games, few practices.
That changes today for the Pacers, at least temporarily. With their longest downtime between games of the season other than the All-Star break, they will have the much-needed opportunity to spend some quality time on the practice floor as they prepare for a brutal stretch of schedule.
With 12 games in 20 days to open the season, Coach Frank Vogel has had to take a novel approach to the occasional off day: more film study, less full-speed work on court. It isn't the ideal way to correct problems as they arise, or polish obvious rough edges. That's why, after giving the players Sunday off, he's looking forward to a sort of mini-camp.
"Monday and Tuesday will be practices where we try to grow our offense a little bit, cover some things on the defensive end that we need to get better at and just take advantage of the time to improve," Vogel said, adding today's workout "probably will be like a training camp practice."
"Not going to be crazy, not going to be a 3-hour practice or anything like that, but we want to take advantage of having the ability to have live action to work on things."
His top priority?
"Our offensive execution and our ability to read and space properly, probably the No. 1 thing," he said.
As good as the defense has been through the 9-3 start (they rank in the top six defensively in points, field goal percentage, blocks and steals), the offense has struggled. Indiana ranks 20th in scoring (93.2), 26th in assists (17.7) and 27th in field goal percentage (.413).
That has begun to turn in the past few games as Vogel has encouraged the players to increase the tempo. They've averaged 96 points in winning their last three including an average of 16.3 fast-break points, four above their season norm. They had a season-high 23 in the 97-83 win over Boston Saturday.
Indiana already has won more games when scoring less than 100 points (eight) than all of last season (seven).
"The total points per game is as much a byproduct of the pace of the game and we're not playing fast enough," Vogel said. "Hopefully we'll start getting our scores up into the hundreds but our defense has been very solid. I'm very pleased where we are with that."
The man most in charge of pushing the pace is point guard Darren Collison, who in the last three games has 34 points, 15 assists and just three turnovers.
"We have a lot of depth and we have guards that can push the ball up the court and get easy baskets," Collison said. "We didn't get that in our first five to seven games but we're starting to get that now. Frank has talked about getting easy points in transition to make the game easier for us and we have. George (Hill) did a good job pushing the ball up, P.G. (Paul George) did as well and I'm going to continue pushing it up."
The Pacers' fast start will be tested in the next couple of weeks, with six of the next seven and eight of 10 on the road. Indiana is 5-0 at home, 4-3 on the road.
"I'm excited with how we started," Vogel said. "Our defense is probably ahead of where we thought it would be. Our rebounding is what I thought it would be and our offense is probably behind what I thought it would be. But it was a big step (Saturday) with our guys understanding the power of the up-tempo game with the depth that we have.
"(Associate Head Coach) Brian Shaw calls it a tag-team mentality. You push the tempo, wear them down, wear them down and then boom we get somebody else fresh in there that is just as good and then that second unit wears them down. We wear teams down with physicality on the glass and in the past and with tempo. That's the identity we want to have."