Before and after the Pacers put up their impressive win over the Bulls on Saturday night, a game which saw every starter score in double figures with field goal attempts almost evenly disbursed, Frank Vogel made the point that team's lack of ball movement wasn't the fault of the guy holding the ball. Instead, execution with strong cuts and even better screens was needed to create an open players to move the ball.
So the plan wasn't to spread things around evenly, but just execute. The equity throughout the box score was just the result of vastly improved execution.
All the little things have to work together to have a big night which is how the Pacers put together a few big runs against the Bulls to eventually run away in the second half. Both the revamped reserve unit in the first half and the starters were able to create quality scoring opportunities and open shots in a game that was a grind between two energetic defensive teams.
The 27 assists, led by a combined 17 dimes from Paul George and Evan Turner (I know!), was more than the team had combined (25) in their last two games.
With the offensive burden spread around the court, the Pacers defense returned to their league-leading devastating identity with length and active hands disrupting passing lanes and Roy Hibbert protecting the bucket. The result was the first opponent under 80 points and a field goal percentage under 40 percent since beating the Magic on Feb. 3. The stingy effort made the 12-point win feel closer to 20, much like the 6-point loss in New York felt like a double-digit drubbing.
The game played out like a big exhale as things progressively improved throughout the 48 minutes. As Vogel admitted after the game, the effort served as a reminder to the player that they can indeed get back to playing like they did earlier in the year.
"Yeah, actually, I do,'' Vogel said when asked it the team made a statement to itself. "We did remind ourselves who we are - in terms of being a potentially suffocating defensive team that plays together on the offensive end and shares the basketball, and has a lot of weapons.''
The good feelings won't last long if the Pacers throw up another clunker on the road Saturday night in Memphis. Fatigue shouldn't be an issue since the Pacers likely made it to Memphis before the Grizzlies returned home from Miami after a hard-fought loss to the Heat. Memphis lost a nice lead after Marc Gasol left the game with an ankle injury which will have him questionable to play against the Pacers.
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