As the cliché’ goes, offense wins games but defense wins championships. Although the Indiana Pacers may not have the talent necessary to win a championship, their defense certainly has guided them in the right direction.
After being knocked out by the number one seed Chicago Bulls last year, the Pacers entered this season as one of the sleeper teams in the Eastern Conference. With a much improved roster consisting of young talent, their defense has significantly improved.
Currently ranked 11th in points allowed per game, the surging Pacers (18-12) are thriving off of their consistency on the defensive end of the court. Head coach Frank Vogul’s emphasis on improving their defense has resulted in his teams top ten ranking in steals, causing opponents turnovers, blocks and rebounds.
The anchor of their defense is Roy Hibbert who, at 7’2”, is averaging 1.73 blocks per game. His presence in the paint has forced opponents into outside shooting, another area in which the Pacers have improved in defensively. The Pacers are holding opponents to 34% shooting from beyond the arc and just 43% from the field.
In addition to Hibbert’s stellar defensive play, George Hill, Danny Granger and Paul George have stepped up as well. All three players are averaging over one steal per game while also shooting over 39% from the field offensively.
The overall improvement of the team’s defense has resulted in a better offensive approach. The Pacers are ranked ninth in three-point field goal percentage and seventh in free-throws attempted per game. Their increase in shooting three’s and getting more trips to the foul line is largely due to the growth of Hibbert’s game. With his seven foot body in the paint, opponents are forced to double team him while leaving their shooters with open looks. When teams play him one on one, he can easily post up any defender and draw contact on moves to the basket.
If the Pacers can maintain consistency on the defensive end, their offense will continue to benefit from better shooting and inside scoring. The key to their defense lies on the shoulders of Hibbert, and if he can continue to play at a high level then the sky is the limit for these Indiana Pacers.