Practice: McMillan on Matching Up with Cleveland

November 15, 2016 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan discussed what he liked from the Pacers' offense and defense during Monday's win over the Magic, and looked ahead to the matchup with the reigning champion Cavaliers.

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Practice: McMillan on Matching Up with Cleveland

November 15, 2016 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan discussed what he liked from the Pacers' offense and defense during Monday's win over the Magic, and looked ahead to the matchup with the reigning champion Cavaliers.
Nov 15, 2016  |  02:43

Practice: Myles Turner on Foul Trouble, Cavs Matchup

November 15, 2016 - Pacers center Myles Turner discussed getting in early foul trouble, and the matchup against the Cavaliers.
Nov 15, 2016  |  01:12

Practice: Paul George on Offense, Facing the Cavs

Nov. 15, 2016 - Pacers forward Paul George talks about Indiana's growth on offense, his health coming off a sprained ankle, and Wednesday's showdown with LeBron James and the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Nov 15, 2016  |  01:56

Practice: Jeff Teague on Ball Movement, Cleveland

November 15, 2016 - Pacers guard Jeff Teague explained what worked for the Pacers during their win over the Magic, and said he's treating the matchup with the Cavs as if it's any other game.
Nov 15, 2016  |  01:35

Practice: Seraphin on Breakout Performance

Nov. 15, 2016 - Pacers center Kevin Seraphin discusses his energetic play off the bench in Monday's 88-69 win over Orlando.
Nov 15, 2016  |  01:04

Pacers Sensing Progress at Both Ends

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

It wasn't the most exciting game of the season for the Pacers, or even their most impressive victory. They beat Orlando, a losing team coming off an emotional victory at Oklahoma City the previous night, despite scoring 88 points and hitting just 39 percent of their shots against the NBA's worst defense.

From their point of view, however, it might have been their best win, the one in which offense and defense came together better than any game this season. The only thing missing was shooting accuracy, which will come and go with the ebb and flow of the schedule.

"I thought our ball movement was really good," coach Nate McMillan said following Tuesday's practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "We had 90 attempts at the basket. I loved our ball movement; we didn't turn the ball over (just nine times). And I thought defensively we were connected. Good job of being physical. I thought our weak-side was connected. A lot of good in that game even though we didn't score a lot of points."

The Pacers will need all the goodness they can get in the coming weeks, starting Wednesday when they play the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers at The Fieldhouse. They're 5-6, and can't afford to not take advantage of a favorable stretch of schedule in which they play six of their next seven games at home.

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To do so, they need to find a happy medium between offense and defense. Or, perhaps more accurately, a high level of performance with both. Whether they can accomplish that remains to be seen, but also remains the goal.

"We're going to have to," Myles Turner said. "If we want to be the team we're trying to be, we have to excel at both ends. The defense started to come together (against Orlando). The togetherness was there, the communication was there. I think we can do both. Obviously we have the talent on offense, but once we're tied together on defense, our offense will spark off our defense."

The Pacers began the season an offensive force that scored 130 points in an overtime victory in the season opener and surpassed 100 in eight of their first 10 games. When that didn't bring the desired results – no road victories in the first five tries, narrow homecourt wins over losing teams – they pumped the brakes a bit and shifted their emphasis more to defense.

Truth is, they had never neglected defense. That was the focus of the first practice of training camp, and has always been an emphasis. But the effort to score often led to lack of effort on defense, which needed to be addressed. And that led to an out-of-sync offense, such as in Saturday's 105-99 loss to Boston when they took quick shots and went one-on-one too often.

Monday's 88-69 win over the Magic, then, brought the Pacers' best combination of offense and defense this season. Paul George, returning from a one-game absence due to a sprained ankle, hit just 5-of-16 shots, including 1-of-5 3-pointers. If he had a more typical shooting game, the offense would have looked much better.

"We didn't make shots, but that was the best we've moved the ball, regardless of the 120-, 110-point nights we've had this season."

The cohesion was better on defense as well. Orlando missed open shots, but the Pacers were at least partially responsible for its 32 percent shooting percentage and 16 turnovers.

"We were in our gaps, we were talking, we were active," Jeff Teague said afterward.

The Pacers believe consistent focus on defense will lead to better offense, even when shots aren't falling at the normal percentage rate. They scored 20 points off Orlando turnovers, and allowed just six points off their own. Those kind of plays require energy, but they also supply it.

"The more defensive plays you make, you see the energy change on both ends," C.J. Miles said following the win over the Magic. "Guys feel involved, guys are energetic, guys are pulling for each other.

"It doesn't seem to roll the other way. You can play well offensively and stink it up defensively and still won't feel good. That's what was happening. We were playing well offensively but we weren't stopping anybody, making a bunch of mistakes...we could be up five and guys would still be upset. It's a pride thing. It takes a toll more than people think."

The Pacers could have two more energy supplies for upcoming games. Rodney Stuckey was a full participant in practice on Monday for the first time since pulling a hamstring in the season's second game. He felt fine afterward, and said it's now a matter of getting his wind and legs in game condition. He won't play against the Cavs, but said he might be able to go against Phoenix on Friday. If not then, then soon.

It will be an earlier return than was originally anticipated.

"There was no muscle tear," he said. "I dodged a bullet. I feel back to normal."

Kevin Seraphin, meanwhile, helped raise the voltage on Monday in a surprising 19-minute appearance that was his longest of the season by more than seven minutes. He entered the game late in the third period and made hustle plays at both ends, grabbing offensive rebounds and chasing down loose balls, to lead a surge to a 14-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

He probably can expect more playing time. McMillan's smile seemed to give him away Tuesday when he was asked if Seraphin had earned a place in the rotation.

"He's done some good things," McMillan said. "We certainly have to look at trying to get him some minutes. We've been looking for (energy). So we'll see."

Turner seems all for it. They did not play together against the Magic, but were paired in Tuesday's practice – an indication of what might come in games. That would amount to a slight shift in strategy from the smaller spread lineup that was to be implemented this season, although Turner can play away from the basket.

The coaches were working with Turner on post moves following practice, and McMillan would like for Turner to take advantage of smaller defenders whenever possible, but some opponents might call for Turner and Seraphin to play together to combat size.

"I like playing with him," Turner said. "It reminds me of last year when I got to play with Ian (Mahinmi). Defensively we have a little work to do playing out there together, but offensively it's a good little one-two (tandem). He's a great player, he just hasn't the opportunity to show it."


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.

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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