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(Living and) Dying by the Three Point Offense

It's pretty dreadful when you think about it. The Pacers play the second fastest pace in the NBA behind only the Golden State Warriors, but have the second lowest points per 100 possessions ahead of only the Nets. The Pacers offensive woes are deep emotional and physical wounds.

Unfortunately, this can't be attributed to one factor, but is rather a wealth of factors: Extended injuries, classic Jim O'Brien rotation issues, a "stand and watch" offense...okay, this could really go on for a while. Point is, the Pacers are so inefficient at what they do offensively, it kind of makes you wonder why the tempo has to be pushed when this team can be effective in a half court set when players go in motion. I mean, there are few negatives to be said for the Joys of Roy’s Improved Passing Abilities, not to mention Danny Granger's effectiveness when he plays inside.

But the hinges of the Pacers offensive woes (poor percentages, low free throw ratio, terrible efficiency, no offensive rebounding) can in a large part be attributed to the Pacers overreliance on the three point shot.

The three point shot can be a great equalizer between great teams and merely average ones, but only if you can cash it in. Last night against Dallas, the Pacers struggled to find any rhythm offensively without Granger, but did little to help their case against a Mavericks team that was beatable by forcing three pointers. Obviously, Granger may not make up the nine point deficit, since the game likely changes with him in it, but the Pacers, resigned to the fact they didn't have a usually expected 23 (or more) points, tried to make up for their lack of big bat by swinging for the fences in a game they could’ve kept closer by aiming for singles and walks. 

But exactly how reliant do the Pacers have to be on the three point shot to win games? In the team's last ten wins, Indiana shot better deep than their opponent half the time, though two of those were against the Pistons, who are the worst three point shooting team in the NBA. They shot 40% or better five times as well (the best of their three point nights coming against the Nets). And in terms of three point production, Indiana only saw significant three point efficiency advantage against the Timberwolves, Nets, and Raptors.

Meanwhile, in the past ten losses, the Pacers have only shot better than their opponents in triples twice, one asterisked because they shot 25% against the Lakers, who in turn shot a paltry 5-22 for the night. This includes last night's all time 3-23 clankfest against the Mavericks, a percentage so disgustingly inefficient, it makes you wonder: Why does Indiana have to rely so heavily on a shot that doesn't necessarily help their chances at winning, but directly affects them in losses?

Whether it was the Pacers ability to hit the shot last season, or O'Brien's system's reliance on three pointers, regardless of their effectiveness, the Pacers willingness to take 23 three point shots and only hit three of them, pull them to a .331 average on the year. Furthermore, they're on pace to shoot 1800 three pointers for the third straight year, and none of the 20 teams to reach that mark has shot worse than the Pacers have this season (and surprise, it's Obie's 02-03 Celtics that currently have that dubious honor at .334).

It's no longer a secret the Pacers offense doesn't work, but it becomes troubling how much of a wreck it really is when looking at it. The Pacers have shown effectiveness when passing the ball, when players are moving in the half court, and when the ball goes inside. But like watching the Colts' pass heavy offense without Peyton Manning running the show and with Chris Johnson waiting in the backfield, it's all wrong. We've got a system that's completely wrong for the personnel, and we're suffering for it.

Even though the wins have not improved the past two years, this team has still been fun to watch, especially last season. But like with a fine TV show, we've stayed on past our prime in this capacity, we've jumped the shark. Like the final season of Newsradio, or more recently, the latest season of Scrubs, the heart and passion are no longer there, but there's an obligation that still remains. I can only hope the three point offense isn't picked up for 82 episodes next year, because watching the Indiana offense fail to play to their strengths for 26 more this year is going to be frustrating enough.