Pacers Still Perfecting Late-Game Execution

Nov. 16, 2017 - The Pacers discuss the issues they've experienced with offensive execution down the stretch in close games and the value Croatian sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic brings to the offense.

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Pacers Still Perfecting Late-Game Execution

Nov. 16, 2017 - The Pacers discuss the issues they've experienced with offensive execution down the stretch in close games and the value Croatian sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic brings to the offense.
Nov 16, 2017  |  02:11

Joe Young Spends Night on St. Vincent Center Floor

Nov. 16, 2017 - After getting back to Indianapolis late after Wednesday's win in Memphis, Pacers guard Joe Young headed to the team facility to get up some shots...and then get some shut-eye.
Nov 16, 2017  |  02:17

Pacers Seeking the Fine Line in their Offense

by Mark Montieth Writer

Nate McMillan's offensive game plan can be reduced to five simple words that aren't so simple to execute.

Play early, or play late.

The idea is to play at a fast tempo and look for easy shots in transition, but slow down and move the ball to look for a good shot if the quick shot is not available. It's a fine line, and difficult for players new to one another to find, but it summarizes the issue of the Pacers' late-game execution, which nearly caused a costly and embarrassing defeat in Wednesday's game at Memphis.

The Pacers led 105-88 with 9:41 left, but stumbled their way to the finish line, needing a sensational block from Myles Turner in the final minute, and Marc Gasol's miss of a desperate 3-pointer at the final buzzer to escape with a 116-113 victory.

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It was nearly reminiscent of their loss at New York on Nov. 5, when they let a 19-point lead in the final two minutes of the third quarter slip away, or other games when they failed to pull out a close game in the fourth quarter. Having lost five of their previous six games, another defeat, particularly given the circumstances, would have been a significant blow to their collective confidence.

"We didn't have the ball movement we would like," McMillan said of his team's fourth-quarter lapse.

The Pacers are 4-4 in "clutch" games this season, which the NBA defines as games in which the score differential is five points or less within the final five minutes. Their stats in those moments indicate the ball movement issue, as they rank 25th in assists. That leads to forced shots, which is reflected in their field goal accuracy: 40 percent.

The game in Memphis was a case study. The Pacers hit 53 percent of their field goals through the first three quarters, with 25 assists (McMillan's goal for an entire game) and just seven turnovers. They opened the fourth quarter with three assisted baskets to take a 17-point lead and force a Memphis timeout with 10:37 left, but their offense gradually degenerated.

After Lance Stephenson's tip-in returned the lead to 17 with 9:41 remaining, the Pacers's offense consisted of six missed shots and three turnovers until Bojan Bogdanovic hit a 3-pointer with 4:39 left. Victor Oladipo followed with another 3-pointer with 4:03 left, but the Pacers followed with two more missed field goal attempts and three turnovers the rest of the way, scoring only on three foul shots.

They had just one assisted field goal in the final 10 ½ minutes, coming when Myles Turner fed Bogdanovic's 3-point shot. Oladipo, who scored 21 points, hit just 1-of-5 shots in the fourth quarter. Turner failed to get a field goal attempt in his 7 ½ minutes.

"We didn't run our sets the way we normally run our sets," said Darren Collison, who finished with a season-high 30 points. "We were trying to play off each other (like we did) the first 3 ½ quarters."

In other words, when they were unable to play early, they failed to play late by moving the ball.

"You're going to have to learn to play both," McMillan said. "You're not going to be able to play fast for 48 minutes. We want to be aggressive and have a quick attack if there's something good there, but as the season goes on you have to learn to play late. (Opponents) are going to get their defense back and set up, and you're going to have to execute your half-court offense."

Collison, in his nine NBA seasons, has played with and against teams that knew how to win close games and other teams that knew how to lose them. It comes down to experience and chemistry, as well as the individual "character" of the players. Reggie Miller usually performed well in clutch situations. Some talented players, for whatever reason, do not. But, generally, it's a collective effort.

"We haven't played with each other before," Collison said. "We're still trying to figure out where we want the ball. Of course, Vic is going to take the majority of last shots, but it's how we're going to set him up and how we're going to play off him as well.

"We're only 15 games into the season. All these teams that have been together the last three or four years, they've been through the down times. It's our time to get better and get to know each other."

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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.

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