Outrebounded? Not a Problem for Pacers

by Manny Randhawa

November 24, 2013 | 12:50 a.m.

The 76ers missed 67 shots against the Pacers on Saturday night. They attempted 102 field goals in all.

The translation?

Indiana held an opponent at or below 40 percent shooting for the ninth time this season – 34 percent to be exact – which has become a norm for the top defensive team in the NBA.

What hasn’t been the norm is the Pacers being outrebounded – particularly by such a wide margin in the offensive rebound category – to the tune of 23 offensive boards for Philadelphia to just eight for Indiana. How were the Pacers able to hold off the Sixers for a 106-98 win despite allowing so many second-chance opportunities? Well, let’s put it this way: they could’ve printed up T-shirts that read, “Keep Calm and Defend Anyway.”

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Despite having so many second chances offensively, Philadelphia couldn’t solve Indiana’s interior defense. And despite attempting 25 3-pointers as a result, the Sixers made just four from beyond the arc all night.

Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown pointed out that this Pacers team has more than just great discipline and athleticism on the defensive end of the floor. They also have trust.

“When [the Pacers] boast the length that they have, and they’ve played together a lot, there’s a trust factor and they know what’s going on behind their first line of defense,” Brown said. “I think Roy [Hibbert] and David [West] even behind, and some of the shot-blocking that they have behind their defense encourages more aggressive play on the perimeter. And we just couldn’t convert some of those shots. Some of them were good looks, and some of them we give them credit.”

That the Pacers allowed that many offensive rebounds but still managed a victory is a scary prospect for opponents. Granted, the Sixers were without two regular starters in Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young. But the fact that Indiana could weather the storm against a scrappy group of young players trying to prove their worth in the NBA, led by none other than Michael Carter-Williams – who scored a career-high 29 points – is significant. It is especially so considering the fact that Philadelphia came into the contest 10th in the league in field goal percentage (46 percent) and seventh in points per game (104.1).

“They’re long down there,” Carter-Williams said of Indiana’s defense. “Roy’s a big guy and they have a lot of long athletes and blocked shots, so it was tough to finish [in the paint] and they make it tough. They do a great job. They’re a great defensive team, if not the best defensive team in the NBA.”

When asked why the Sixers had such a hard time converting so many second chance shots, Evan Turner’s thoughts drifted in a similar direction as those of Carter-Williams. And Turner initially had just a two-word answer.

“Roy Hibbert,” he said, pausing afterwards for effect. “He’s a great defender, and I don’t see a 7-footer get attacked 25 times and getting two fouls. So that made it tough.”

Hibbert in particular – and the Pacers in general – have been extremely disciplined when it comes to playing physical, smothering defense without getting into foul trouble. In fact, no Pacers starter has fouled out in a game this season, and Hibbert is the only one that has reached five fouls in a game so far (twice). That ability to avoid foul trouble was perhaps more evident on Saturday night than on most occasions, given how many times Philadelphia had possession of the basketball.

Hibbert said that this Pacers group, though young, is experienced in a way that enables it to withstand relentless – even if relatively ineffective – attacks like that of the Sixers on Saturday. With the game tied at 86 late in the fourth quarter, nobody went into panic mode.

“We’re an experienced team,” Hibbert said. “We don’t worry. We know that we can finish games.”

Finish the game is exactly what Indiana did, displaying a collective poise defensively that lifted the Pacers to an unorthodox 12th win in a game played at a much faster pace than the Pacers are accustomed to.

Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said that the Sixers’ up-tempo style leads to a lot of fast-break points, but that Indiana held them to about their average.

“They score 19 points against every team on the break,” Vogel said. “That’s what they average, so we held them to about their average. That’s their whole game plan, and if you’re not sharp on your transition, they’ll score 30 or 35 points on you on the break. So I thought our transition defense was OK. It wasn’t horrible, it wasn’t great.”

And while Vogel wasn’t happy about the number of offensive rebounds Philadelphia hauled in, he also noted that we shouldn’t forget the sheer number of shots the Sixers attempted.

“As far as the glass, they missed 67 shots,” Vogel said with a smile. “We held them to 34 percent shooting, so there were a lot of misses out there to get.”

And though the Pacers didn’t grab all of those misses, their stalwart defense put its stamp on yet another victory. No panic here, just trust and experience that get the job done.

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