Pacers on Keys to Recent Hot Streak

Nov. 22, 2017 - The Pacers break down the keys to their strong play during their four-game winning streak and look ahead to games this weekend against East leaders Toronto and Brooklyn.

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Pacers on Keys to Recent Hot Streak

Nov. 22, 2017 - The Pacers break down the keys to their strong play during their four-game winning streak and look ahead to games this weekend against East leaders Toronto and Brooklyn.
Nov 22, 2017  |  02:00

Bogdanovic Making Big Impact in Indiana

Nov. 22, 2017 - Darren Collison and Nate McMillan share their impressions of new Pacers sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic, then Bogdanovic talks about his strong play.
Nov 22, 2017  |  02:04

Mark's Mailbag: Potential All-Stars, GRIII's Return

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Q. Do you believe that this team currently has three players who could become All-Stars? Looking at Oladipo, Sabonis & Turner.

— Surya

A. I do. I've made that statement a few times myself.

Oladipo's stats are at an All-Star level now, and if the Pacers continue on the path they're on in the standings and he continues to play at this level, he could make it this season.

Turner and Sabonis are both 21 years old and need more time to develop, but have the potential to get to that level.

Q. The Pacers nearly beat their franchise record for steals in a game against Orlando. Do you think any franchise records will fall to this year's team?

— Ross

A. I'd say the most likely team records this group can break are for assists or 3-point field goals.

The assists record is 45, set at Dallas on Jan. 5, 1987, in a 144-135 victory. Wayman Tisdale had six assists in that game. His college coach, Billy Tubbs, attended the game and said, "You had more assists tonight than you had in your whole damn career in Oklahoma."

This Pacers team can score, obviously. It has reached 140 and 130 points, already, and had 33 assists in its win at Miami on Sunday and 35 assists in an earlier win at Cleveland. It has a wide variety of scorers and moves the ball well, so that record seems possible.

It might have to happen on the road, with a generous stat crew, though. The Pacers' stat crew has a reputation for integrity. It seems to follow the letter of the law on assists, and doesn't give them away indiscriminately.

The team record for 3-pointers is 19 at Washington, just two seasons ago. C.J. Miles hit eight in that game and Paul George seven.

I could see this team challenging that mark. All of the starters (and some of the reserves) are capable 3-point shooters, and if the stars are aligned they could go off on the same night. The Pacers led the NBA in 3-point shooting (.404) following Monday's win in Orlando, and they have eight players shooting 34 percent or better. With that much firepower, something could happen.

Q. Looking at Pacers history, has it ever happened that they have traded their best player and had a better record (the next season)? It seems that almost always when a team is forced to trade their All-Star they go through some down years. Pacers seem to be the exception.

— Francisco

A. That's a tough one. It's rare, obviously, for a team to trade its best player. And then there's the issue of agreeing on the best player. It's not always the leading scorer.

I don't think the Pacers have ever had a situation such as this one, having traded someone who was clearly their best player and benefitting from it. If one wants to argue Detlef Schrempf was their best player on the 1992-93 team — and not Reggie Miller, who was the leading scorer that season — that might be an example. They came back the following season, after trading Schrempf for Derrick McKey in the preseason, and improved from 41 to 47 wins. Of course, bringing in Larry Brown as head coach had a lot to do with that.

It didn't happen in the ABA. They traded away the nucleus of their three championship teams — Mel Daniels, Roger Brown and Freddie Lewis — in 1974 and reached the ABA Finals the following season, but none of them was the team's best player at the time. George McGinnis was, and he led a rebuilt team a long way.

Q. What's the word/feeling around the league for this Pacers team?

Also, is it just me or is it true that Myles is not really living up to the original expectations? I know he is still 20 years old, but it is his 3rd year and he is too inconsistent with no post game whatsoever?

— IgorPanov

Q Why does Turner still not have much of a low post game and why isn't he a better rebounder?

— David

A. Two for the price of one here.

It seems the league is starting to take notice - if, by the "league," you mean national media. It's too early to be branding a team, but the Pacers are playing better than most people who follow the NBA expected. Their current four-game winning streak, three of which came on the road, is the sort of thing that gets noticed.

Pacers fans shouldn't be seeking national recognition for the team, though. Remember what happened in 2014, when the team got off to a great start and started getting noticed nationally? There was an ESPN special with Stephen A. Smith, a GQ photo spread and a Sports Illustrated feature on Roy Hibbert, among other displays of adulation. That team became distracted by all the attention, and in some cases player performances suffered as a result. It would be best for this team to escape the attention of the national media for as long as possible. There's never anything to be gained from recognition and praise, but always something to be gained from having a chip on your shoulder.

As for the questions on Turner — who is 21, by the way — I agree, he needs to add to his game. You can't be too critical of his play so far this season because of the concussion that kept him out of seven games and affected his play for awhile after his return. His performance at Miami on Sunday was one of the best of his career, and an indication he's 100 percent again.

But, he'll have to be able to score around the basket on something other than a dunk or open layup to fulfill his potential. He's not as strong as most NBA centers, which is understandable given his age, but he lacks a refined post-up game. He's made a couple of good shots with his back to the basket this season, but the fact I can remember them indicates how rare they have been and why they've stood out.

He missed an awkward shot with Orlando's 6-7 swingman Evan Fournier guarding him on Monday. Sometimes he passes the ball back out rather than trying to score on a smaller player. When guarded by a defender his size, he inevitably puts up a fadeaway jumper. It's surprising he's gotten this far along in his career without learning better post-up skills, but it's hardly too late to add to his scoring arsenal. He's got one of the most skilled post-up centers in the league as a teammate in Al Jefferson. Hopefully he's taking full advantage of that.

He needs to become stronger to become a better rebounder. He gets outmuscled on occasion. He lacks brute strength, but should get stronger just by getting older — you know, the "man strength" thing. He said he lifted weights over the summer and got stronger in his upper body, but I have the impression he's reluctant to bulk up too much. He takes pride in his perimeter shot, and wants to remain agile.

He's showing some progress this season, averaging 7.6 rebounds. That's slightly more than last season, in slightly less playing time per game.

Q. Heard national media outlets surmise that Thaddeus Young is a good trade piece to get an asset in return. I say no. But how much do you think that would affect chemistry if he was traded? What should be valued more — chemistry or assets?

— Tom

A. I think both should be valued. It's difficult to place one over the other. You have to judge every situation independently. If a newly acquired player is far more talented than the one he replaces, it makes sense to give up a little chemistry. If a newly acquired player isn't quite as talented as the one he replaces but greatly improves chemistry, take him.

I can't speak to trades. It's impossible to know any team's situation and needs as the trade deadline approaches. But Young is valuable to the Pacers for both his talent and his contribution to their chemistry. He's one of the few veterans on the team, and the fact he was elected by the players a co-captain speaks to the respect his teammates have for him. I expect him to be on the roster at the end of the season, and I believe his teammates badly want that to be the case.

Q. And what about the rim protection? Almost none.

— Luciano

A. This was a Twitter comment rather than a mailbag question, but I thought I'd include it to address the issue of blocked shots.

The rim protection is better than "almost none," but it could stand to be improved. As of this moment, the Pacers rank 19th in blocked shots, with 4.4 per game. That number would be higher, obviously, if Turner had not missed those seven games with the concussion. He averages 2.7, which would lead the NBA if he had played enough games to qualify.

Q. I assume there will be a nine-man rotation when Glenn is healthy. What role will he play?

Also: Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison have been my favorite players. The starters complement each other so well. Nate's doing a great job.

— James

A. Incorporating Robinson into the rotation will be a challenge. The plan was for him to back up Bogdanovic, but McMillan has essentially gone with a three-guard lineup when Bogdanovic is out of the game. I'm guessing when Robinson is ready to play, minutes will be trimmed from a few players to make room for him, rather than chopping them off from one.

Q. What does this team lack to be an NBA championship contender? When will GRob III be back, and do you think he can contribute and be a starter when he returns?

— Tim

A. Championship contender? Wasn't it just yesterday everyone wanted to see the team broken up, and start over?

Right now, the primary issue separating the Pacers from the most legitimate contenders is time and experience. Championship team usually have at least two All-Stars, and maybe another who would be deserving. As mentioned in a previous question, this team has a few potential All-Stars — Oladipo, Turner and Sabonis — but they aren't there yet.

As time passes, more specific needs will arise, but for now the team needs to take the step toward a winning record and advancing in the playoffs.

As for Robinson, as mentioned before it's difficult to predict when he'll play again. He indicated to me recently he might be ready in mid-December, but that's an optimistic view. I don't see him winning a starting position, however. He'll back up Bogdanovic, who is playing well and has established chemistry with the starters.

The Pacers should have a deep bench if and when everyone is healthy, so McMillan will be challenged to disperse minutes.

Q. Could you shed a light on Glenn Robinson's and Edmond Sumner's current rehab progress?

— Mikhail

A. Robinson's return date is unknown, as mentioned earlier. Nate McMillan doesn't even like to speculate, saying only Robinson is getting better. Sumner warms up with the team before practice and shoots with it after practice, but does not participate in contact drills. His return is uncertain, but not imminent. When he does return, he'll likely be sent to Fort Wayne.

Q. The pace of the Pacers seems to be slowing a bit, but they've been winning lately at this slower rate. Do you think they'll establish an identity as a speedy team like the D'Antoni-coached 90's Nash Suns or today's Rockets? Being a smallish team, they need to exploit speed.

— Dcansino

A. I can't agree their pace is slowing. In their two most recent games, they scored 120 points at Miami and 105 at Orlando — not bad for the second game of a road back-to-back. They are averaging 108.6 points per game, which ranks sixth in the NBA, and is just short of McMillan's goal of 110 points. As for pace, which measures possessions per game, they rank either ninth or 11th, depending on which listing you view. They average about 102 possessions per game.

I don't think you'll see them match Mike D'Antoni's Phoenix Suns pace, but I don't think you'll see them slip back to last season's pace, either. McMillan is devoted to a faster tempo this season, and has the players to do it. I doubt he could hold them back at this point.

Rather than play at a faster tempo, a case can be made for exploiting the 3-point line more often. That can be done in transition, but also in the halfcourt offense. They lead the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage at .404 but only rank 22nd in 3-point attempts. They don't have a bona-fide low post scoring threat among the starters, although Young is decent, so it seems they could look to utilize the 3-point shot more often. But you don't want to force threes, and if their most comfortable and efficient offense is to play as they are, 109 points a game should be good enough — if they continue to improve on defense.


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

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