Kevin C. Cox
[From the FanPosts, latrell spreewel offers up some what the Pacers defense could mean for the blue and gold if they can keep it up throughout the season. -TL]
It has been often said that offense wins games and defense wins championships. After playing roughly 40% of the season, the Pacers are currently the best defensive team in almost every measurable category and would love the aforementioned cliche to hold true for them this season.
Currently, the Pacers are 2nd in points allowed by the slightest margin to the Grizzlies. 1st in point per shot. 1st in field goal defense percentage and 1st in three point field goal percentage, both by a considerable margin. All in all, the Pacers are playing like the hard nose team that Frank Vogel talked about when he took over the coaching gig. Although, the Pacers' defense is elite for today's NBA, it still has its flaws and is not on the level of the suffocating defense of the 2003 Pistons or the 2004 Spurs.
However, to be fair to the Pacers, its really hard to compare the league today to the early 2000's where hand checking was still allowed and physical play was much more acceptable and the pace of game was generally much slower before the dawn of Mike D'antoni's infamous 3 second or less offense that has transformed the game completely to the point where traditional centers, who were once the key component to a championship, is a breed of dying specie. Before we go any further, lets take a journey backwards and look at the teams with the best field goal defense and their seasons in the last 12 years dating back to the 2000-2001 season.
1) 2011-2012, Boston Celtics, 41.9% , Lost in ECF
2) 2010-2011, Chicago Bulls, 43.0% , Lost in ECF
3) 2009-2010, Orlando Magic, 43.8%, Lost in ECF
4) 2008-2009, Boston Celtics, 43.1%, Lost in ECSF
5) 2007-2008, Boston Celtics, 41.9% NBA Champions
6) 2006-2007, Houston Rockets, 42.9% Lost First Round
7) 2005-2006, Chicago Bulls, 42.6% Lost First Round
8) 2004-2005, Chicago Bulls, 42.2% Lost First Round
9) 2003-2004, San Antonio Spurs 40.9% NBA Champions
10) 2002-2003, Sacremento Kings, 42.0% Lost WCF***** (though many to this day still argue that this team was robbed that year by bad officiating)
11) 2001-2002, L.A. Lakers, 42.4% NBA Champions
12) 2000-2001, New York Knicks, 41.7% Lost First Round
Out of the last 12 years, 8 teams who have had the best field goal defense has made it to the conference finals at the least. Of those 8, 3 of them has took home the Larry O'Brien trophy. The 2000-2001 Knicks and the 2006-2007 Rockets were both coached by Jeff Van Gundy, who was a tough defensive minded coach but both teams oddly fell in tough first round exits. The only anomaly of the group, would be the Chicago Bulls from 2004-2006. Other than those few teams, if we were to look back into the late 90's, the knicks, the Pacers, the Bulls, the spurs, the Lakers were all Physical defensive teams with tremendous success.
Currently the Pacers have a 41.4% field goal defense. If this team can some how maintain their level of defense throughout the entire season and into the playoffs with a healthy Danny Granger coming back who will provide nearly 20 points per night, this Pacer team could just make a LONG playoff run this year base off of historical trends. If the Pacers would be able to maintain their level of defense all season long, they would have the 2nd best field goal defense in over a decade only to the 2004 Spurs who won it all.
Of course, there is still roughly 60% of the season that has yet to be played, and we haven't seen a minute of Danny Granger yet, but base on their elite defense alone, Pacer fans should feel a bit of optimism with all things considered. Of course, in order to make the Finals through the East, most feel that the road must go through Miami.
Though, for all of their accolades and superstars, the Heat have significant flaws this season on defense and rebounding, and rightfully so based on the make of their roster. The Pacers lost to the Heat last season due in part to so many factors. One, Paul George was overwhelmed entirely during the playoffs and was a offensive zero the entire series vs the Heat. This Year's Paul George is a clear cut offensive weapon, which no one could have said that last post season.
Two, David West was not entirely healthy last season, but this season has returned to his all star form and is a clutch player down the stretch all season long.
Three, the Pacers were just not ready to break through to the conference finals just yet last season, too many young players need seasoning, now, this team is just loaded.
Four, although the bench is horrendous, and might be worst offensively than last season, Ian Mahinmi has been a real consistent paint defender and offensive upgrade to Lou Admunson. If Lance Stephenson and D.J. Augustin can return to the bench with a consistent Hansbrough, the bench could potentially be very very versatile with Paul george playing with them.
Last but not least, people forgot how inhuman Lebron was, ALL POSTSEASON long, it would be incredible if he could duplicate that same level of play that he did last season. Dwayne Wade is no as lethal as he used to be, if the Pacers can slow down Lebron, they have a fair chance.
However, with all of that dream scenario on paper, the most important thing for the Pacers when Granger comes back is their elite level defense. It is this lock down philosophy and game plan that has historically been tested and triumphed in the playoffs time and time again. The Pacers are already have the right minset, players and coaches on this team to do so, they have been doing it most of the season so far, if they can match the same intensity that they've been providing, the league better watch out, cause the Pacers are going to shock the world.