The Pacers moved the ball last night far better than at any other point in their five game warm-up against the dregs of the East. Now that we know winning ugly is an option, it's time to get greedy for some pretty play at the offensive end. It's going to be needed against the likes of the Heat.
As Vogel said last night, sharing the ball is Step One. The NBA is experiencing a revival in large part because it has moved beyond the preschooler selfishness of the early aughts Iverson/Carter/McGrady iso-ball clearouts night after night; witness the Heat giving away games in last year's Finals when they became a stop-and-jumpshoot team.
So let's assume that some amount of passing is simply good basketball. Let's take off our all-knowing GM caps for a moment and put on that of the genius on-court tactician. How should these Pacers play, to play their best?
Alas, I don't have any play-by-play efficiency numbers available-a Synergy membership is out of the question and Google's not cooperating. (If anyone can clue me in on how to get super-specific stats, it'd be much appreciated).
The most obvious fix in offensive efficiency is keeping Dahntay Jones far from the ball, unless he's very close to the rim. Already above it and ready to grab a lob is best.
My nagging thought, watching this team these first few games, is that they could benefit from implementing some triangle principles. Not that I, or any other fan unpaid for analysis, really has a clue what the Triangle is, but it seems that a group as good at passing and as flexible as this one this could pick up some useful pointers from Brian Shaw and his experience playing and coaching under Phil Jackson.
Hibbert screening for a cutting Collison, as Granger and West hold their men close on the weak side and George looks for the open man. Yes, please.
The famous thing that's said about the triangle is that you don't need a great point guard to run it. Darren Collison is a creative offensive player in the open court, but I don't think he's got the quick release on that 3 to be a Nash-quality PNR guy (not that many are). Get him running baseline to open space, though, and he's been sticking the open shots.
Hill looks far more comfortable on that 40-foot-out PNR, veering off at strange angles to get the defense spread, but they've either been running it with Hansbrough (who is not a player who likes easy shots) or Hibbert, who can't get to the rim quick enough from that far out. I'd be interested to see if they run PNR with Hill closer in on the wing if he can get into the lane and create for others, as in this discussion of James Harden's offensive game. Hill has been the one guy that's looked comfortable creating his own shot off the dribble so far, which gives hope that maybe the IUPUI scorer is still in there somewhere, waiting to break out.
I'm interested to hear your overthinking opinions on the Pacers offense.