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Offense, Rotations Solid, So Time To Tighten Defense

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

February 21, 2011


Frank Vogel offers instruction to Paul George (NBAE/Getty Images)

Phase 1 of the Frank Vogel Transition Program is complete.

The offense has been restructured and streamlined, its emphasis shifted from the perimeter to the paint.

The lineup and rotations have been established with clearly defined roles.

And the Pacers, not coincidentally, have gone 7-3 to push their record to 24-30 and their standing to eighth in the Eastern Conference.

As they emerge from the All-Star break this week, however, the Pacers must get busily to work on Phase 2:

Defense.

In their last six games, the Pacers yielded an average of 107.8 points on 47.4 percent shooting. Getting torched by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (who each put 41 on the Pacers within eight days) is one thing. Submitting to 115 points and .515 shooting by Detroit, which happened in the final game before the break last Wednesday, is quite another.

"I knew the risk of restructuring our offense and neglecting the defensive work that we needed to be a good defensive team and I knew it was going to bite us sometime," Vogel said. "… We just aren’t as tied together defensively as we need to be right now and that is on me and part of the process.

"Defense involves repetition and hard (work) and most of our practices have been restructuring our offense and working on reads and becoming a more efficient team. I understood there was going some slippage on the defensive end."

The biggest adjustment will be in mentally tying together the five players on the court.

Too many times in recent games, there has been little or no help coming once a perimeter player is beaten. The Pacers need to regain their willingness to step up and take charges, to rotate and defend the rim. They were among the league leaders in blocked shots through 44 games (6.11) but have dropped by two per game in the 10 since.

It must begin with mindset because there will be precious little time to make substantial schematic changes. The Pacers have 22 games in the next 5½ weeks, with seven sets of back-to-backs. Practice time will be scarce.

This team has a habit of coming out of the break with renewed vigor. In the past three seasons, they went 44-43 (.506) after the break, compared to 60-99 (.377) before.

So if they can keep the offense rolling and tighten the screws just a bit on defense, the talk will not just be of making the playoffs but climbing as high as the sixth seed.