[From the FanPosts, pendulum55 shares his experience watching the Pacers in person yesterday. I love when fans share their game experiences so I wanted to highlight this post. Plus, there are plenty of issues to chew on from the commentary. -TL]
I live in the U.K. and due to my current internet connection I have not been able to see more than a few Pacers games this year. Last year, however, I probably watched close to or more than 50% of their games on the internet due to a different connection. Today, though, was the first time I got to see them in person. I have a sister that lives in Boston and as I am in town visiting for a few days we went to the game.
Much more after the jump.
This post will not say anything about the willingness of Bostonians to act like complete idiots to get on the jumbotron. Rather I want to say that O’Brien’s offense is even worse to watch in person than it is on a grainy internet connection at 2:00 in the morning. The biggest problem I have had with his offense, which has not changed from last year when I saw considerably more Pacers games, is his use of post players. I do not have the data to give an exact percentage, but much of Indiana’s offense is facilitated by the big men in the high post. This is problematic on so many fronts, but I will try to list some of them. Mainly, and to give an economic explanation, it completely destroys the on-court division of labour based on individual-specific skills and physical builds and capabilities.
When the point guard comes down and passes the ball off into the high post – and when I say high post we’re talking the elbow at best, often times Roy or Solo got pushed out to the top of the key today – he is then expected to move without the ball and try to set himself or others up to receive it for an open shot. While moving without the ball is a necessary skill, this set reduces the point guard’s ability to use their dribbling and passing ability to penetrate and set up other players. While it was unlikely that Collison would have kept dropping dimes at the rate he did when filling in for Paul in New Orleans, it is no surprise that O’Brien’s system of taking the ball out of the primary ball handler’s hands has led to Collison averaging a meager 4.2 apg this year.
Big men play in the post for a reason – they are big. On top of that, their shooting and dribbling ability is usually below that of their four teammates on the floor. This is not always true, but a pretty accurate generalization. While it is great to have a big man that can pass and shoot competently from range, such as Roy, O’Brien’s system of having him at the high post is such an inefficient use of his talents. Roy really did some damage in the post when he got the ball down low and worked with his back to the basket. Granted he missed some shots, but there is a much better chance (again I do not have access to the hard data on this, but I guarantee it will support my claims) of a 5-6 foot jump hook falling than a jump shot from 15 feet plus. When Roy was taking jumpers from beyond the free-throw line, his offensive game became dangerous for the Pacers, not the Celtics.
On top of having an offense that keeps the big man out of the low post, it also reduces that player’s ability to grab offensive rebounds. Now the Celtics are a good rebounding team and the Pacers are a poor one, but the latter point is exacerbated by keeping our 4 and 5 men so far from the hoop. Granted some of Roy’s misses today were due to numerous offensive tips that did not fall, but these misses are forgivable, unlike 20 foot jump shots. As I’ve said, I have not seen the Pacers play much this year, but I would guess that some of his poor shooting nights are attributable to (forgivable) missed offensive tips and (unforgivable) long jumpers.
Further to point two, this problem of having the big men shoot jumpers from the top of the key is only made worse when the considerably-less-skilled-than-Roy Solo is on the court. Today, when our other offensive players could not get much going and the shot clock was winding down, guess which player tended to be open? Our 5 man sitting at the top of the key or beyond. This should come as no surprise as other teams know this is not a high percentage shot and so their post will wisely back off them and play help defense. Apart from O’Brien who makes this a continual part of the Pacers’ offense, there probably is not another coach in the league that would not want a team’s five man try to beat them with jumpers from 15+ feet.
Finally, I will admit that the times when Roy or another of the Pacers bigs is able to pass out of the high post to a cutting Dunleavy it is a thing of basketball beauty. In addition, using our big men in the high post could be used for a nice change of pace set on the offensive end. However, I could see today that the Celtics were aware of this threat and playing help defense that largely negated it. Such passes to cutting wings will not work with a high rate of success if the opponent has any degree of team-defensive competence. Once again it becomes even less effective when Solo is in the game, as he is a much worse passer than Roy. It would be so much more effective to use Roy’s passing skills out of the low post and run offensive sets through him that way. Not only will he be closer to the basket to use some of his lovely low post moves and have a better chance of snagging an offensive board, but he is good enough to pass out of the post to an open teammate when defenses collapse.
So that is my somewhat long-winded and at times repetitive rant that I’ve been meaning to share on Indycornrows for a while. I really became disenchanted with O’Brien last year and much of this is due to how he uses our post players, and as a former college post player, I think I am somewhat competent to speak on the subject. Perhaps the man is just trying to think outside the box with his offense and I am just being a conservative reactionary for stressing that the five players on the court have historically-defined roles and areas of the court for a reason. Nonetheless, I think this reason is valid i.e. historically it has worked.
It was time to get rid of O’Brien last year when his idiocy cost us a top 4 pick after his coaching largely got us into that position in the first place and I will find it hard to remain a fan of this team if he is brought back. Granted I will stick with the Pacers regardless, but he has to go. That and we need to make a small move for a rugged-rebounding 4 man this season. Yes, I am again beating the drum for Jordan Hill.