The Indiana Pacers just dominated the Detroit Pistons, with seven players shooting into the double digits for a blowout 125-88 win. They all but sealed the victory within 10 minutes of play despite being a team that doesn’t prefer the three-ball. The Pacers have a dynamite defense and they’re quietly creeping under the radar to become one of the hottest NBA teams to watch this season. With the third best record in the league and the ability to kill their opponents in the paint, don’t sleep on the Indiana Pacers! Get Pacers tickets and see them play in person:
Why they work.
A team who nobody – except maybe Pacers fans – thought to keep an eye on is taking center stage right now.
But they’re not a flashy team from a fancy city with tons of superstar players. Heck, they’re not even known for their offense. In fact, the Pacers are often criticized for not taking enough three-point shots. But maybe in their case, the three isn’t as important as we once thought. While they have one of the “worst” offenses in the NBA – they’re the 24th highest-scoring team out of all 30 – it doesn’t actually matter so much because their defense is tremendous. And they can still crack 100 points on a good night, run with the best of them, and rack up W’s like it’s their job… well, because it is.
For example, the Pacers only made 5 of their 19 three-point attempts taken against the Pistons and still managed a ridiculous 125 points that night.
That’s how much the Pacers’ defense matters. They don’t score as much as other teams, but they don’t allow nearly as many points either, and (for anyone that can do math) that results in a win a lot of the time. No, it’s not as sexy as raining threes on their opponents, but playing defense works! If you don’t have epic shooters like the Golden State Warriors, maybe your best option is to work with what you do have.
The Pacers were able to defeat the Pistons with shots in the paint – dunks, layups, and putbacks – that just utterly destroyed the competition all night long. And their talent runs deep. This is the 10th game this season where the Pacers had more than six different dudes scoring in the double digits. That stat right there shows you just how balanced they are as a team.
The Pacers’ only NBA All-Star, Victor Oladipo, prefers the pull-up jumper rather than the three-ball. While he didn’t kill it against the Pistons – only putting up seven points – they didn’t need him to. The shooting guard is a team leader and the Pacers suffered without him last season as he sat out with a knee injury. Despite rumors that he might miss this whole season, Oladipo is back… though he may not be 100% yet. He’s still averaging 17.4 points and 6.6 assists, but it looks like he’s still taking his time reintegrating with his teammates and getting his stride back.
The good news is, since Oladipo’s injury, his fellow teammates are averaging more shots than before. Learning to function and evolve without their star player firing on all cylinders will no doubt prove useful for the Pacers players who are coming into their own now and over the next few months when it really matters.
Bojan Bogdanović has done a great job filling in for Oladipo as well, averaging 19.6 points per game while the starter has been out. As a playmaker, he’s been able to take some of the workload from Oladipo since his return. Point guard and shooting guard Domantas Sabonis, who was traded to the Pacers from Oklahoma City, has also been great at scoring, screening, and rebounding. He plays excellent at the post and snagged 12 rebounds and 18 points against the Pistons.
The whole team seems to be hustling right now. Thad Young dunked and dove for loose balls during that same Pistons game. The 30-year-old forward is averaging over 10 shots per game and scoring more than 14 points, though he did put up a team-high 21 points against the Hawks on the day after Christmas. Myles Turner is scoring 50% from the beyond the arc over the past seven games and he plays amazing defense as well. And the 22-year-old, 6’11” center had a career rebounding night with 17 against the Wizards last weekend.
Darren Collison also dunked against the Pistons, which is saying something since he’s only 6 feet tall and 31 years old. His first dunk of the season was celebrated by his teammates who jumped off the bench in excitement.
That right there tells you a lot about this team. The Pacers are all about putting aside selfish interests, sharing the ball, and getting everybody to score – this blowout was no different. After the Pistons game, head coach Nate McMillan reiterated, “Don’t worry about who scores. Play the game and take the shot when you have it.”
After having won 11 of their previous 13 games, the Pacers are quietly rising to the top of the NBA. Naysayers will point out the fact that they’ve had the easiest schedule in the league so far, but hey, maybe that’s not it at all. Maybe they’re a really well-balanced team that’s only just starting to gel. We’ll see how they fare in the coming weeks as they take on tougher teams like the Raptors and the Celtics.