Last week I dove into the correlation between 3-point shooting and whether it crosses over into our top offensive teams. While the numbers spoke for themselves (the overall result was yes, 3-pointers now play a massive part in a team’s offensive rating), my findings only brought about further questioning, this time from the defensive angle.
While the majority of the top 15 offensive teams were spread right across the top end of both conferences, it was the constant omission of the Indiana Pacers in offensive stats that makes you wonder if the Pacers have any real hope at a title.
Basic strategy would assume to win the title requires a team to be good at offense, defense or more importantly both, except in the game of basketball, strategy gets buried.
The Pacers are simply nowhere to be seen when it comes to attack. While they can hold their heads high sitting at number one in defensive rating, their offense could be what sees them ousted in another Finals race.
Sitting in at 102.4 in offense, the Pacers lie a whopping 20 places behind the Miami Heat, in at number one with 109.1. Miami finishing last season also in number one spot with 110.3 must be ringing alarm bells for Indiana.
Almost like clockwork, the Pacers also finished last year top of the table in defensive ratings only to no avail.
Coming off the back of three losses in a row certainly warrants some questioning of Indiana’s offense. I mean, if you’re playing your strongest hand of defense and still losing games you shouldn’t, isn’t it time to perhaps turn your attention to scoring more points?
While offense is restricted in the playoffs due to teams tightening defense, is the old adage of “Defense wins Championships”, nothing more than an old irrelevant cliché?
Not only did Friday’s 112-86 loss to Houston see the Pacers succumb to their worst defeat this season but Paul George’s comment of “We just got to find out who we are” is not particularly one fans want to be hearing in March.
Am I saying this is a sign of what is to come for the Pacers in the playoffs? Certainly not. However, when opponents are scoring from almost anywhere on the court, can a team win an NBA Championship in 2014 purely on defense alone? There was though this one time at bandcamp where the Celtics won their 2008 Championship with a 96.2 rating, the Pacers currently sit higher at 95.3, however the optimism fades when the Pacers sit so far outside the top 15 in offense.
That is until we look back again at that Celtics win of course. Only two teams in the last 10 years have won a championship and held a top defensive rating (The 2004-2005 San Antonio Spurs did just this), the 2003-2004 winning Pistons were second in defense.
It’s all there in the numbers, across all of the past decade every single was in the Top 10 for offense excluding the 2004 Pistons and 2010 Lakers (Lakers sat 11th mind you), thus reaffirming the notion how important it is to score points (this is why teams like 2011 Mavericks and 2010 Lakers still won despite being crappy on defense).
So what does this mean for the Pacers on their run into the playoffs? Heavily dependent on George, the offense halts when he doesn’t play well, his numbers for the past two games are proof alone. While the support of David West and Lance Stephenson can ease George’s workload (if they step up), they’re no match for Durant/Westbrook offensively.
Even with Westbrook missing, together Durant and Westbrook have still managed to post an offensive rating of 109.8% over West and George’s effort of 105.6%. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sit at 110.4 after their own recent poor form.
Maybe this year is where top defense does again secure a Championship. The dawning of a new era, the demise of big game offense.
Except I don’t believe this for one second.