Practice: McMillan Wants Pacers to Pick Up Tempo

November 6, 2018 - After practice on Tuesday, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan talked about the need for Indiana to pick up the pace on offense.

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Practice: McMillan Wants Pacers to Pick Up Tempo

November 6, 2018 - After practice on Tuesday, Pacers head coach Nate McMillan talked about the need for Indiana to pick up the pace on offense.
Nov 6, 2018  |  01:45

Pacers Need to Pick Up The Pace

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

The Pacers are 7-4, on pace to win 53 games, which hardly anybody would regard as a disappointment as far as regular seasons go. But they hardly look like a team that's found a comfortable stride.

"We haven't put together a complete game – even the games we've won," Thad Young was saying after practice on Tuesday. "Once we get it all together, the sky's going to be the limit for this team."

To get closer to their limits they need to pick up their pace, which was the primary topic of conversation during Tuesday's video session. Ironic, isn't it, that a team nicknamed the "Pacers" ranks last in the NBA in pace?

The NBA's "pace factor" statistic measures the number of possessions a team has per game via a complicated formula. The more the better, obviously, as long as they aren't squandered by bad shots or turnovers. The Pacers average 96.5 per game, while league leader Atlanta averages 108.28.

It's not a direct line to winning, as the records of the Hawks (3-6) and Pacers prove but it certainly helps. The league's elite teams – Golden State, Milwaukee and Toronto – all rank within the top 15, and it doesn't require an advanced math degree to determine more possessions will generally bring more points, which usually brings more victories.

Monday's 98-94 loss to Houston made the point fairly concisely. The Pacers scored just eight fastbreak points and took 19 fewer 3-point shots, which often come in transition. Contrary to his outdated reputation as a slow-tempo coach, Nate McMillan wants things sped up.

"I feel like we're playing too slow, and not establishing the pace we need to give ourselves a chance to win," he said. "Scoring in the 90s, you're not going to win many games. We have to get the ball up the floor faster, get into our attacks quicker and establish that pace."

Tyreke Evans

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

That applies to possessions after made baskets, too. It's awfully difficult to manage a fastbreak when you're taking the ball out of the net after a made shot, but you can at least inbound it and get the ball up quickly to get into your halfcourt offense with some momentum.

"When you get the ball up the floor in three or four seconds and get the ball swung, you get some good looks in your offense in 10 or 15 seconds," McMillan said.

A faster pace, both fullcourt and halfcourt, could lead to more 3-point attempts, which remains the Pacers' greatest obstacle. While they rank sixth in 3-point percentage (.379), they rank 26th in 3-point attempts. McMillan is steadfast in his requirement that players take "good" shots within the flow of the offense and the confines of their skill sets, but the Pacers have been outscored by 96 points behind the 3-point line.

They have largely made up for that by ranking fifth in overall field goal percentage, sixth in opponents' field goal percentage and third in forced turnovers. A few more threes per game sure would help, though. The Pacers were outscored by 21 points on 3-pointers by Houston, a deficit too great to be neutralized at the foul line or via two-point field goal attempts.

Getting the ball upcourt more quickly should create open 3-pointers before the defense is set, or put more tempo into the halfcourt offense and allow more time for the ball to be moved for an open 3-pointer.

"Us coming down and getting in a good flow, playing at a pace, not looking at Coach each and every time we get the basketball," Young said when asked the team's primary emphasis of the moment. "That's one of the biggest things that's slowing us down. We're starting to become methodical and mechanical. We just want to be very, very fluid and get into a good flow."

Turner Needs to "Play His Game"

Myles Turner hasn't been part of the Pacers' offensive flow most of the season, something McMillan wants to correct.

Turner is averaging 11.7 points on 51 percent shooting through 11 games, although he's hit just 2-of-14 3-pointers (.143). He's also averaging just 4.9 rebounds, but ranks fourth in blocked shots (2.5). He had just seven points on 2-of-7 shooting and two rebounds in 23:20 on Monday, but did have three blocks.

McMillan believes Turner needs to get back to the style of play that worked in past seasons, such as when he averaged 14.5 points on 51 percent shooting two years ago and hit 35 percent of his 3-pointers. Turner has played more physically this season and shown more agility than in the past, but hasn't always appeared comfortable in the offense.

McMillan has a center tandem, including Domantas Sabonis, that combines to average 25.6 points and 13.6 rebounds, but he wants them to maintain their distinctive traits. That goes especially for Turner.

"I want him to get back to playing his game," McMillan said. "He's been rolling a lot more early this season and playing in traffic and that's not really …. Domas is better at that. He has a better feel. He does a good job of rolling and Myles does a good job of popping.

"We have two different guys who are trying to play the same style. Get to your spot. If that's an 18-footer or if that's a 3-pointer, you take that and shoot it with confidence."


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.

Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.