Pacers rolling thanks to octopus offense
April 18, 2012 – Skeptics of the Pacers' balanced offensive approach suggest no team can win a championship, or even seriously contend for one, without The Man -- that singular superstar who has the ball in his hands with the shot clock winding down and the game on the line.
If you have Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant, that is indeed a nice luxury.
In the absence of The Man, however, the Pacers are getting it done with everyman.
Consider their 102-97 win in Philadelphia Tuesday. Who was the star of the game?
Danny Granger, because of his 24 points and six 3-pointers? David West, because of his four consecutive big plays in the final minutes? Roy Hibbert, because of his fifth consecutive double-double? Paul George for the big 3-pointer that helped quell a late 76ers rally? George Hill for hitting the clinching free throws and once again running the show seamlessly?
Look deeper. You could easily go with Tyler Hansbrough, Dahntay Jones and/or Leandro Barbosa, who all made big plays to bring the Pacers back from a five-point deficit late in the third quarter and into the lead early in the fourth.
As good as any one player might be, the Pacers believe they are better off with their balanced approach because it gives opposing coaches so many different options to confront.
Double-team the post? Granger, George, Hill and Barbosa will snipe away from the perimeter. Pressure the ball? You risk letting Hibbert and West have their way inside. Speed it up? Slow it down?
What is an opponent to do?
"That Indiana team is very good. They’ve got size, they’ve got shooting, they’ve got depth," Sixers Coach Doug Collins said. "Indiana is good. They’re going to cause people problems. If they win their first round matchup and get into that second round against either Miami or Chicago, that could be a really good series."
This octopus of an offense has carried the Pacers through their remarkable late-season surge. They've won six in a row, 10 of 11 in April and 15 of 19 since acquiring Barbosa from Toronto before the trade deadline.
In the last 19 games, they have scored at least 100 points 15 times and averaged 101.8. In the first 43 games, they averaged 95.3 points and topped 100 13 times.
Safe to say things are clicking.
"On the offensive end we're sharing the ball and our post offense is really starting to come," Vogel said. "It's becoming a pick-your-poison dilemma for teams … we usually have a matchup we can go at and our spacing and our double-team attack is really growing to the point where if they want to double us we're going to burn them for threes, or post up on the second side because typically we have two legitimate post threats in the game most of the game."
Had Paul George scored one more point in Philly, all five starters would've score in double figures for the third consecutive game. As it is, they've done so 10 times, and the Pacers are 9-1. After the Sixers cut the lead to 88-85 with 3:21 left, all five starters scored -- and Granger was the last of the lot.
"We've got five guys that can be go-to guys," Vogel said. "When ball movement is your best friend and you invite double-teams -- whether it's out of the pick-and-roll or out of the post -- you have a mindset of drawing to the ball and then moving it, knowing you have four other options on the court that can put it in the basket, it's a pretty dangerous combination."
When Vogel and the players started talking a few games ago about building better habits, this is basically what they had in mind -- at least offensively. The defense likewise has regained its early season edge, holding nine straight opponents below 100 points.
"You saw it when it came down to make those plays down the stretch," West said. "Under a minute, switching, make sure we contest the shots and talking some things out. We were able to do that. You've got to be able to win these kind of games. I think these kind of games help us going forward."
The Pacers do not have any name that lights up a marquee, but they do have several that can light up a scoreboard.