In the Pacers big win over the Kings on Halloween, the offense sputtered in the third quarter after the Pacers amassed a 25-point lead at the half. But the team's defensive effort made sure the struggling Kings wouldn't get comfortable nor work their way back into the game.
Setting the tone for that effort was Thaddeus Young who has been a rock in the rotation while watching others shine in the spotlight. No better example of Young's impact thus far than a play late in the third quarter on Tuesday when it appeared the Kings weren't going to mount a serious threat to the dub.
Darren Collison dropped a pass off his foot on the left wing, forcing the ball to roll right to Willie Cauley-Stein who quickly went the other way to begin a 2-on-1 transition opportunity. Young started the play a good 10 feet behind Cauley-Stein but took off on a dead sprint, catching the Kings' big man at the free throw line to poke the ball out from behind before WCS could make a pass for an easy bucket.
On the ensuing possession, De'Aaron Fox missed a perimeter shot and Young fittingly hauled in the rebound to turn what appeared to be an easy transition bucket for the Kings into a defensive stop. Again, this effort when the Pacers were up 23 and could likely survive giving up the two. Instead, Young was giving up nothin'!
So far this season, the Pacers have been about 16 points per 100 possessions better with Young on the court and when he's off the court the defensive end feels it the most, giving up over 10 points per 100 possession more. Young also currently leads the NBA in deflections, a hustle stat that accounts for disrupting opponent's offensive flow.
But along with the numbers, there's a leadership component to what Young is bringing to the table this year.
Young and Myles Turner were voted by the players to be team captains prior to the regular season staring. When preseason camp started you may recall Young lamented the lost opportunities last season with not enough accountability among so many veteran players.
Now it is one thing to raise that veteran voice and hold teammates accountable off the court, but a more effective tactic is to display the expected effort on the court.
When Thad chased down Cauley-Stein to blow up the Kings transition run he was, without uttering a word, loudly stating, "We are not taking any possessions off no matter what the score!"
The effort it takes to be active and disrupt opponents is Young's way of setting expectations for the standard level of effort he wants from the Pacers. Fortunately, this Pacers team is full of guys willing to meet those effort expectations and it shows up even when the execution isn't perfect.