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Defense traveled even if three-point shooting deserted Pacers on the road

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The Pacers returned home with a winning record on the road thanks to some consistency on the defensive end.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Pacers returned home happy after a 3-2 road trip against Western Conference foes. After a promising start with easy back-to-back wins at Phoenix and Utah, the smiles three games later were due to salvaging the trip with an impressive win over the Spurs on Sunday to sweep the season series for the first time in 23 years.

Still, after making 25 of 49 (51%) three-pointers in cruising past the Suns and Jazz, the Pacers caught a severe case of the clanks on their off-day in Portland. Hey, Portland’s weird like that.

The major bump in the road led to back-to-back losses in Porland and L.A. as the Pacers made just 9 of 51 (17.6%) three-balls. The bad bounces didn’t get any better in San Antonio as the Pacers survived a 4 of 19 night from behind the arc.

Fortunately, defensive effort would end up turning the trip positive. Even in the losses, the Pacers remained in play for a win into the fourth quarter thanks to slowing down their opponents.

Only the Blazers scored in triple-figures, hitting exactly 100 points as the Pacers defensive efficiency for the five games was 99.7 points/100 possessions, which ranks fifth in the league over the last five games. Expand it out over the last 10 games and the Pacers rank fourth at 102.4 points/100.

What the cherry-picked numbers of late reveal is that the Pacers effort on the defensive end is steadily improving. It also shows that this team won’t roll over easy, even when faced with an awful offensive night, as they were in Portland and Los Angeles.

Obviously, the Pacers weren’t playing the Rockets or Warriors on this trip, but defense against those elite teams is more about survival for any NBA team. While the defense remains a work in progress, the Pacers improvement deserves acknowledgement.

The defense has lingered around 20th in the league for most of the season and now they are up to 16th. The offense is currently seventh while trying to recover from the clanks. But the uptick on D, moves the Pacers ever closer to a goal Nate McMillan put forth for the franchise at the beginning of the year, to develop into a team that ranked in the top ten in both offense and defense.

I’d say they’re ahead of schedule.

IC COLD LINKS

Going back to the IC roots with some links gathered after the road trip. Feel free to add any other interesting links you see in the comments.

Check out the links:

Mark's Mailbag: What Role Will GRIII Play Upon His Return? | Indiana Pacers

Oladipo's 19 leads Pacers, snapping Spurs' home streak
Victor Oladipo scored 19 points and the Indiana Pacers defeated San Antonio 94-86, snapping the Spurs' 14-game home winning streak

Six teams who should be proactive at the trade deadline | HoopsHype
As February approaches, with it comes the arrival of the NBA's silly season. This year, Feb. 8 marks the league's trade deadline – the final day on which teams are allowed to swap players until the offseason.

Nate McMillan Discusses Trail Blazers Tenure - Blazer's Edge
The current Pacers’ and ex-Blazers’ coach talks with Jason Quick about his time in Portland.

Milwaukee Bucks fire head coach Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd has been fired as coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. Assistant Joe Prunty will be named interim coach, league sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Giannis Antetokounmpo offered to intervene before Milwaukee Bucks fired Jason Kidd

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo spoke with Jason Kidd 15 minutes before the coach was fired Monday, telling him he would do what he could to help save Kidd's job. Kidd said he replied, "There's nothing you can do. All you can do is tell the truth."

Six teams who should be proactive at the trade deadline | HoopsHype
As February approaches, with it comes the arrival of the NBA's silly season. This year, Feb. 8 marks the league's trade deadline – the final day on which teams are allowed to swap players until the offseason.

Donovan Mitchell gets endorsement from reigning NBA dunk contest champ to compete | Deseret News
Glenn Robinson III would like to see Donovan Mitchell in the dunk contest.

Oladipo's 19 leads Pacers, snapping Spurs' home streak
Victor Oladipo scored 19 points and the Indiana Pacers defeated San Antonio 94-86, snapping the Spurs' 14-game home winning streak

Edmond Sumner scores nine points in professional debut | Vigilant Sports
Edmond Sumner finished with nine points, two rebounds, two assists, and two steals in his first 12 minutes of professional basketball. The 22-year-old returned to the court Friday night in Fort Wayne with the Mad Ants of the G League, making his debut with the Pacers organization. The Pacers acquired the 52nd overall pick in…

Nate McMillan Discusses Trail Blazers Tenure - Blazer's Edge
The current Pacers’ and ex-Blazers’ coach talks with Jason Quick about his time in Portland.

Portland Trail Blazers' Caleb Swanigan having 'positive experience' in NBA G League | OregonLive.com
The Blazers' rookie big man is averaging 15.6 points, 13.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists and enjoying a little mentoring from NBA veteran Kendrick Perkins.

Indiana Pacers: The Myles Turner quandary still looms
Myles Turner's 2017-18 campaign was expected to be his ascent to stardom, but it hasn't happened for the Indiana Pacers center.

Spurs vehemently deny ESPN report of Kawhi Leonard rift - Pounding The Rock
Is there a problem in paradise, or is this just your run-of-the-mill rumor?

Milwaukee Bucks fire head coach Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd has been fired as coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. Assistant Joe Prunty will be named interim coach, league sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Portland Trail Blazers' Caleb Swanigan having 'positive experience' in NBA G League | OregonLive.com
The Blazers' rookie big man is averaging 15.6 points, 13.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists and enjoying a little mentoring from NBA veteran Kendrick Perkins.

Edmond Sumner scores nine points in professional debut | Vigilant Sports

Donovan Mitchell gets endorsement from reigning NBA dunk contest champ to compete | Deseret News
Glenn Robinson III would like to see Donovan Mitchell in the dunk contest.

Indiana Pacers: The Myles Turner quandary still looms
Myles Turner's 2017-18 campaign was expected to be his ascent to stardom, but it hasn't happened for the Indiana Pacers center.

Spurs vehemently deny ESPN report of Kawhi Leonard rift - Pounding The Rock
Is there a problem in paradise, or is this just your run-of-the-mill rumor?