Trusting the pass has fueled Indiana’s first multi-game win streak of the season. Over the last five games, the Blue & Gold’s offensive efficiency has been second to none in the league, notching a mammoth 119.6 points per 100 possessions. But lurking beneath the surface of the team’s recent scoring bonanza is a season-long problem that is still very much in need of a remedy: The Pacers surrender more wide open three-point attempts (closest defender 6+ feet away) than any team in the NBA.
Unfortunately, that statistical fact hasn’t changed over the course of the team’s five-game win streak, either. Instead, Indiana has been the only squad to give up 14+ wide open three-point attempts per contest over that same span of time, which is nearly four more than the league average.
With shots perpetually there for the taking, opponents logically tend to transform into high volume scorers from behind the arc, where shots are worth 50 percent more points, when facing the Pacers. Jacking up 30 threes a night, teams are well-aware that they can rack up 30 easy points against Indiana, even if they only connect on a third of their tries.
For this reason, Indiana’s second-best opponent three-point field goal percentage (33.9%) arguably says more about what type of shots they are green-lighting than it does about the effectiveness of their perimeter defense.
Here’s a comprehensive look at why the Pacers have continued to struggle to contest shots from behind the arc.
Moths to the Flame:
Either all of the Pacers help, or none of them do. There is rarely a middle ground, but there is always an impetus for the former. Take this possession from the Pacers’ narrow loss against the Washington Wizards, for example. Indiana had struggled to contain John Wall, who finished the game with 36 points and nine assists, all night. Intent upon building a wall against dribble penetration with under two minutes to play, all five (!) Pacers collapse in the paint.
There’s just one little problem: This isn’t John Wall.
Why did Indiana’s entire five-man lineup opt to simultaneously converge on Markieff Morris leaving Kelly Oubre wide open to swing the ball to a wide open Otto Porter for three? Overreaction strikes again.
Per NBA Wowy, opponents have scored 111.4 points per 100 possessions in the 61 minutes Al Jefferson and Kevin Seraphin have spent on the floor together. Part of the reason why is that the two plodders don’t offer much in the way of mobility against opposing stretch shooters, as was the case here against Brooklyn’s Justin Hamilton.
(On a side note: Over the last five games, Indiana has been outscored by 13.3 points per 100 possessions when Aaron Brooks and Monta Ellis have been joined on the floor with C.J. Miles, Kevin Seraphin, and Al Jefferson. Averaging seven points and four rebounds, Seraphin has made good use of his minutes, but there still needs to be a better answer at backup four. Having two big bodies in the paint, transforms driving to the rim into an acrobatic act for Brooks and Ellis and negates the benefit of teams double-teaming Jefferson on the block. Now that the starters are finally jelling, either shortening the rotation or pursuing outside help may be in order.)
Defending against the Offensive Glass:
Three-pointers are rarely as wide open as they are following an offensive rebound. With big men crashing the glass and guards leaking out in anticipation of receiving an outlet pass, second-chance looks from behind the arc can be a bear to defend against. Indiana’s 27th ranked defensive rebounding percentage routinely leaves them scrambling.
To be fair, the Pacers as a whole have not exactly mastered the art of off-ball defense, but Thaddeus Young and Monta Ellis certainly are not setting the curve.
Here, Young is too distracted by Ellis funneling Dwyane Wade toward Al Jefferson to notice that his man, Nikola Mirotic, is wide open behind the arc.
Ellis found himself lost in a similar no man’s land against the Pistons, when he abandoned Stanley Johnson to inexplicably hedge across the lane to help Aaron Brooks and Al Jefferson curtail Ish Smith.
Perhaps Monta thought it possible he would have to try to bump Boban Marjonovic from his spot — a job that should have been left to Kevin Seraphin — if Jefferson had to contest Smith at the rim.
Even so, it should take a lot more complex ball or player movement than a simple drive-and-kick to bait either player so egregiously out of position.
Lost in Transition:
It’s been said before, but conditioned lack of trust has led Paul George to do some strange things defensively. Here, he covers for Jeff Teague in transition, but then fails to rotate back to his own man on the wing, assuming that Thaddeus Young won’t be shook by a pass-fake from Marcus Morris. This type of breakdown brought on by miscommunication has been prevalent this season.
Over the last five games, Indiana’s offensive potency has been enough to mask all of the reasons the team continues to surrender so many ‘wide open’ three-pointers. It hasn’t mattered against three (Chicago, Orlando, and Brooklyn) of the bottom-six three-point shooting teams in the NBA. It remains to be seen how much it will matter against three (San Antonio, Toronto, and Houston) of the top-six, which the Pacers have yet to play.