Pacers Seek to Shore Up Rebounding

Dec. 14, 2017 - After practice on Thursday, the Pacers talked about improving their effort on the glass, something they struggled with during Wednesday's loss to the Thunder.

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Pacers Seek to Shore Up Rebounding

Dec. 14, 2017 - After practice on Thursday, the Pacers talked about improving their effort on the glass, something they struggled with during Wednesday's loss to the Thunder.
Dec 14, 2017  |  01:31

Glenn Robinson III Gives Injury Update

Dec. 14, 2017 - Pacers G/F Glenn Robinson III talked about his recovery from an ankle injury suffered in training camp. Robinson III has just been cleared to start shooting, and is eager for his return.
Dec 14, 2017  |  03:43

After Media Frenzy, Pacers' World Back to Normal

by Mark Montieth Writer

Practice concluded, and their moment in the sun fading rapidly in their rear-view mirror, Nate McMillan gathered his players at the close of practice Thursday. But rather than forming a disjointed circle around him, as is the custom, they were instructed to face the other side of the gym, where nine media members - only two of whom were not team employees – were waiting to talk with them.

His message was simple: this is your reality. All those reporters and photographers who had showed up a couple of days ago to advance and cover their game with Oklahoma City on Wednesday had moved on to the next set of bright lights. It was time to forget the distractions and get back to basics.

The Pacers didn't do that very well in their 100-95 loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday, their first, and so far only, game of the season aired on ESPN. The summer trade that had sent Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis provided an obvious and dramatic storyline, and attracted a national media following.

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Friday's game against Detroit will attract the usual modest crew of local media and contain no local subplots beyond the Pacers' desire to get back to the habits that had helped them win four consecutive games before Wednesday.

"What we have to focus on is us, and what we do," McMillan said. "All of that hype that was going on the last 48 hours, you can't get caught up in that. You have to continue to do the things that got you here and have allowed you to experience some success."

The video review of the loss to OKC was not kind. Appearing to be caught up in the moment, the Pacers did not move the ball as well as usual, did not shoot as well, got to the foul line for just six attempts – which McMillan called "alarming" – and didn't make enough hustle plays.

Most of all, they were dominated physically. The Thunder outrebounded the Pacers 52-42 and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, which led to 22 second-chance points. The Pacers had 13 second-chance points. The game's outcome was easily found within that nine-point difference.

Pacers guard Victor Oladipo stands next to Thunder forward Paul George during Wednesday's nationally televised game. (Photo: NBAE/Getty Images)

It's not a new or unexpected problem for the Pacers. They've been outrebounded by 1.5 per game, and have allowed 45 more offensive rebounds than they've taken. Based on percentage of missed shots rebounded, they rank 22nd in the NBA.

They have limited means of addressing it during the season. Their center, Myles Turner, is just 21 and at this stage of his career is more comfortable playing away from the basket. Their so-called power forward, Thad Young, is a solid rebounder, and had 10 against the Thunder, but is a slender 6-foot-8 player not physically equipped to battle some of the league's behemoths. The "small" forward, Bojan Bogdanovic, is a shooter who averages 3.1 rebounds.

"We knew going into the season, we're not a big team," McMillan said. "Our guards are not big guards, our bigs are not really big guys. We have to do that collectively.

"Myles is not going to put on 15-20 pounds in the course of a year. That takes time. He'll get stronger. We'll look at that situation and address it in the off-season. What we have to do now is continue to battle. There's going to be some monsters down there that are going to be a challenge."

Andre Drummond, for example. He leads the NBA in rebounding at 15.1 per game, and has been above that average with the Pacers. He grabbed 21 rebounds in Detroit's victory the first time the teams met this season, and 15 in the second when the Pacers came from behind to win.

The Pacers controlled the boards in that game by executing their emphasis on "gang" rebounding. Oladipo grabbed a career-high 15 in that game, and Lance Stephenson had eight off the bench.

Stephenson also had eight against the Thunder. He's the third-best rebounder on a per-minute bais among the Pacers' eight rotation players, and sets an example of how to go about it.

"You had to sacrifice your body," he said. "You can't think about getting hurt. You just have to run in there and grab it out of the air and do whatever it takes to grab that rebound. Some guys aren't willing to take that risk."

Stephenson said OKC center Steven Adams, who grabbed 13 rebounds during the game, was shouting "Hit me harder!" during the game. Absent that type of player, the Pacers will have to settle for a team effort on the boards such as the one that won the second meeting with the Pistons.

"We talk about it every night before the game," McMillan said. "We have to gang rebound. Part of that is our bigs boxing out and our guards coming down and helping smash and getting two or three guys on a guy like Adams.

But a lot of the rebounding starts with us controlling the ball. If we can keep the ball in front of us and force them to shoot over the top, then our guys can stay attached to those bigs. If our bigs have to come over and give help and then try to get back to their bigs and box them out, or you have a guard trying to smash on a big guy, you're in trouble."

In other words, get back to the basics.

It probably wasn't a coincidence that the Pacers' most experienced starters, Young and Darren Collison, were their most effective players on Wednesday, the ones least influenced by the game's subplots. Young finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals, while Collison – who had missed Sunday's victory over Denver but felt much better on Wednesday – had 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

"I just try to play my same game each and every game," Young said. "Whether it's me rebounding or me scoring or me getting steals, or me just being there defensively for the team, my game doesn't change. I don't try to do anything out of the ordinary, I just continue to play. I feed off what teams give me and continue to play. Nothing crazy, just continue to be me out there on the court."

No matter who's watching.

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