Over the three games that Victor Oladipo has sat out with knee soreness, the Pacers have been outscored by 14.5 points per 100 possessions while shooting a woeful 34.2 percent on shots taken from between the paint and the three-point line (otherwise known as the zone in which they’ve scored a league-leading 18.2 percent of their points this season).
Until the one-man wrecking crew is healthy enough to jump start the suddenly slogging pace, the Pacers can’t afford to bail out the defense of their opponents in the half-court.
Shot hunting and settling
For instance, please take note of the ample time remaining on the shot clock when Lance Stephenson elected to launch this contested shot off the dribble after he had already spent several ineffectual seconds dancing with Tyus Jones.
Or, here, when he opted to go with this zero-pass, pull-up attempt in transition against the Bulls well-before any of his teammates were in position to even have a chance to grab the rebound.
Lance can get this type of shot whenever he wants, so stalling the offense early should probably be avoided — especially given that he’s only connected on 20 percent of his pull-up twos over the last three games.
(As an aside, more of the prodigal point wing’s touches as a starter need to be purposed with the simple intention to move or advance the ball rather than to assist or score. Since he started filling-in for Oladipo, the first unit has averaged an anemic 91.9 points per 100 possessions in 41 minutes of action. By comparison, they’ve put up 111.1 in considerably smaller sample size with Cory Joseph playing alongside Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, and Myles Turner.)
Stephenson hasn’t been the only guard guilty of probing for shots, however.
Check out this particularly egregious possession against Minnesota, wherein Collison ignores that Myles Turner has his man sealed under the basket in order to settle for having his own shot blocked by Karl Anthony-Towns, instead.
Admittedly, the 21-year-old center has a maddening tendency to settle for turnaround jump shots when defended by smaller guards, but there’s no reason to expect that this wouldn’t have been an easy dunk.
At the very least, if Collison wasn’t going to throw the ball to his teammate, then the speedy guard should’ve tested the lateral quickness of Towns and attacked the rim.
Being slow to recognize and react to mismatches has made some already feeble-looking post-entry passes appear considerably worse in hindsight.
For example, here is the exact moment when Cory Joseph should’ve delivered the ball to Thaddeus Young when he had Jimmy Butler pinned in the lane.
And, here, when Butler was in position to deny the pass, is when it was too late and resulted in points scored off turnovers for Minnesota.
Poor timing has also applied to some of the seemingly halfhearted picks they’ve set of late, which have contributed to the ball sticking.
On the same possession, Young doesn’t make much contact on the pindown screen for Collison to set him up on the block.
Then, Bogdanovic second guesses whether to set the back screen for Stephenson.
So, he barely stunts his man trying to improvise by using Myles Turner’s non-pick hip to create a passing angle at the top of the key.
The end result is Thad taking a face-up, step-back jump shot without doing much to force the defense to react.
As long as the Pacers continue to be the only team to rank among the bottom five in points allowed in the paint per 100 possessions as well as opponent three point attempts per 100 possessions, the speed of the offense both in terms of the number of possessions as well as the speed within those possessions has to be this team’s best defense.
Without Victor Oladipo’s clutch shooting to fall back on and Myles Turner and Bojan Bogdanovic both shooting less than 40 percent since the start of his absence, neglecting to do the little things is huge.