It’s only been three games, but the read offense hasn’t been the free flowing escape from stagnation that it was supposed to be. Case in point, Paul George has already “discussed with McMillan the possibility of having more structure when it comes to the team’s halfcourt offense,” reported the Indy Star’s Nate Taylor following the team’s flat performance against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.
In transition, when Jeff Teague, Monta Ellis, or Paul George are pushing the pace looking for Thaddeus Young racing ahead of the competition or Myles Turner crashing hard toward the rim, the Pacers look dynamic. It’s when they start having to take the ball out of the net, when they can’t get fast break points from steals or force bad shots and collect the defensive rebound, that they get into trouble.
“We were trying to play quick offense first,” Paul George said of the need to go into games focused more on defense. “...that’s what’s causing us to be drained and fatigued on the defensive end. But we’re not doing either one of them good.”
The Pacers need to fly up and down the court to compensate for their lack of off-ball threats, but sustaining an up-tempo offense, by nature, also necessitates competing on defense, which is something they haven’t done much of through each of their first three contests. And that, perhaps, is putting it kindly.
Worse yet, Indiana’s 29th ranked defensive rating has been like a double-edged sword, allowing opponents free passage in the painted area on one end while simultaneously stalling their random offense in the half court on the other.
Granted, Indiana is putting the “pace” in Pacers — they rank 29th in shots taken very late in the shot clock (0-4 seconds). But, that is the product of the emphasis they have placed on generating as many possessions as possible. The speed within those possessions is still sluggish. Tellingly, the Pacers rank in the top half of the league in terms of number of possessions per 48 minutes, but the average speed of their offense places them in the bottom half.
“More movement on our behalf,” George answered when asked how to address Jeff Teague’s and, by extension, the team’s offensive struggles. “Everybody. Whoever’s got the ball, the other four guys have to have some movement.”
Here, beyond the initial ball screen set by Paul George, the remainder of the starting lineup watches idly as Teague attempts to shake free from multiple defenders to get, what turns out to be, a contested shot.
“It’s been the same for myself trying to go against a loaded defense, same for Monta (Ellis), same for Thaddeus (Young),” George said of his team’s bogged down half court offense while prescribing a remedy for Teague’s slump. “We’ve got to do a better job of creating outlets for the guy who has the ball.”
Spot the difference when Young takes the initiative to cut behind Rondae Hollis-Jefferson toward the rim.
After being unable to train for most of the summer due to a torn patellar tendon, it is possible that Teague either lacks confidence in his knee or is rusty. Whether it be because of that or simply a rough adjustment period, it’s obvious that his struggles have been compounded by his team’s unstructured offense. Until they can get their defensive deficiencies squared away, Indiana’s infatuation with speed needs to extend to the half court.