Togetherness, physicality, relentlessness, tenacity, passion, swagger... are these terms more descriptive of the most recent Super Bowl Champions, or the Pacers' Smashmouth brand of basketball? The similarities between the make-up of the Seattle Seahawks and the Indiana Pacers have already been discussed, at length, here on Indy Cornrows. Not unlike their Seattle based counterpart, the Pacers play in a small, yet still very energized market. Both teams are chock-full of individuals who have, as Tom Lewis words it, "an abundance of chips on their respective shoulders which they use collectively as fuel to also strengthen their bond with one another." One team may toss around the pigskin on the field while the other shoots the rock on the court, but there is no denying that both squads are united by, at least, one common bond - defensive dominance.
In fact, the comparison is so apparent, that Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, now infamous for his post-game rant where he declared himself the best, at his position, in the NFL, voiced his desire to see the NBA's league-leading defensive squad in person:
Thereafter, Paul George replied with an emphatic, "Yessir!" From one defender extraordinaire to another, Sherman then went on to offer his praise for the Pacers' defensive system:
@Paul_George24 man we love the way y'all play defense with technique, communication and passion... We gonna come check y'all out in person— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) February 25, 2014
Then, in jest to a member of the team that knocked-off his beloved Denver Broncos, PG jokingly replied:
Now opinions on Sherman's rant are sure to vary, but there is absolutely no denying that the Super Bowl Champion cornerback knows well-played defense when he sees it. Look no further than this statistical rundown from Fox Sports for evidence:
Since @RSherman_25 entered the League: • 1st in picks (20) • 1st in passes defensed (61) • Opp QB Rtg when targeted 39.4 (1st) SHUTDOWN.— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) January 20, 2014
Sherman's career resume speaks for itself, which is probably why Paul George ended his tweet with #Respect. Not to mention that shortly after the Seahawks soundly defeated the Broncos in the Super Bowl, PG told USA Today Sports that he, too, could see the similarities between his own team and the Legion of Boom:
"Seattle's got individual guys that stand out defensively, as we do, and as a group we put it all together. We're a great comparison to that team because we do it from an individual standpoint and as a group."
Now, of course, the NFL and NBA are not directly comparable, but PG is correct in his overall assessment. While the Seahawks can boast the individual defensive talents of Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Richard Sherman, the Pacers, no doubt, have some standouts in their own right.
Roy Hibbert's defensive prowess has been well-documented. He leads the league in terms of defensive rating, as well as, opponent field goal percentage at the rim (41..1%). Not to mention, it would be hard to deny that he really has been the maverick for the law of verticality in today's NBA.
Another star defender, is, of course, Paul George. According to the Huffington Post's featured "Wild Stat of the Week," Paul George's defensive win shares per game (.086) is a number of historic proportions:
"The number I started this piece with, .086 Defensive Win Share Per Game, is far more than Marc Gasol, another center, was able to garner last year when he won DPOY (.065), and significantly more than the .0744 Michael Jordan posted in his DPOY season of '87-'88. He outdid Ron Artest and Gary Payton in their DPOY seasons, and I was having trouble finding anyone who had done better at any time. Paul George has already established himself as one of the best defenders in the NBA, but is it possible that he is actually historically great?
The highest Defensive Win Shares Per Game posted by a wing player since modern defensive statistics were recorded is the .0854 posted by Scottie Pippen in '94-'95, ever so much less than what George is on pace for."
Nevertheless, like Paul George stated, the Pacers' lock-down defense is not just predicated on two stars, they "put it all together" as a group. Whether it is fighting over the top of screens, running shooters off the three point line, or forcing drivers into the Great Wall of Hibbert, the Pacers stifle their opponents' offenses collectively. According to basketball-reference, each member of the Pacers' starting five ranks in the top ten of not only defensive win shares, but also defensive rating. As a unit, the Pacers rank 1st in the league in both defensive rating (96.5) and opponents points per game (90.9).
All of these numbers add up to one simple truth - defensive dominance. Not unlike the Legion of Boom, the Indiana Pacers' defense thrives on "technique, communication, and passion" - just as Richard Sherman described it. Perhaps, when it comes to recognizing stifling defense the old saying is correct... "It takes one to know one."