Indiana Pacers Status Check:
Road Record: 5-6
Last game: Lost 97-83 @ Atlanta
Last 10 Games: 5-5
PPG: 99.6 (16th)
Opponents PPG: 97.4 (13th)
Offensive Rating: 105.0 (20th)
Defensive Rating: 102.6 (9th)
Pace: 94.5 (7th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .504 (11th)
Turnover Percentage: .146 (25th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .741 (18th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .225 (27th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .209 (28th)
Opp. eFG%: .462 (2nd)
Opp. TO%: .130 (24th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .261 (23rd)
Stats from Basketball-Reference.com.
With the ongoing mediocrity of the Pistons (7-18), the hapless fall of the LeBron James-less Cavaliers (7-17), and the surprising ineptitude (if you really didn’t know what to expect from Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden and pre-trade deadline John Salmons) of the Bucks (9-13), the Pacers have emerged as Chicago’s closest rival in the Central Division.
Who would’ve thought?
The Pacers have been in freefall for years. In the six seasons after Ron Artest got hit by a Diet Coke in Detroit, the Pacers went from 61 wins to 44, 41, 35, 36, 36 and 32 wins.
But this season, the Pacers have shown real signs of progress. During the 2009-10 campaign, they didn’t win their 11th game until January 5, by which time they were 11-23 andvirtually out of playoff contention. As of today, they’re in 7th place in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there isnt some drama going on in Indy. Pacers coach Jim O’Brien has been benching starting point guard Darren Collison in favor of T.J. Ford and even A.J. Price. In fact, Price played in place of Collison for the entire fourth quarter of the Pacers’ loss in Atlanta on Friday night.
Said Collison: “I don’t know why I didn’t play. I’m not going to lie, it’s been tough. Right now, I’m not used to it. It is what it is.”
It’s hard to figure. Collison is shooting 41 percent from downtown — compared to only 27 and 25 percent for Ford and Price, respectively — and Ford’s Player Efficiency Rating (9.0) and Offensive Rating (89) are so bad it’s hard to believe he’s still in the rotation. As for Price, he’s appeared in only five games this season. How’d he earn the crunch time PT?
Said O’Brien: “I thought our best chance of coming back was with A.J. in the game because he spaces the court, he shoots the 3 and he also needed playing time. I also think he did a nice job.”
Price is 3-for-12 on threes this season. I’m just sayin’.
Well, with all due respect, whoever plays at the point for Indy will probably end up getting eaten alive by Derrick Rose. In his last five games against the Pacers, Rose has averaged 24.6 points and 55.4 percent shooting. On the season, Derrick is ranked 4th in PPG (25.1), 8th in Assist Percentage (40.5) and 9th in APG (8.1).
But that’s not all. After hitting a career-best five three-pointers (in only six attempts) against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night, Rose is shooting 41.6 percent from downtown and 64.0 percent (16-for-25) during Chicago’s current five-game winning streak.
And to think: People used to say he couldn’t shoot.
Said Rose: “I’m trying to show everybody what I’m working on. You want to show opponents new things so when they’re going to play you, they know it’s going to be a hard night.”
Rose has scored 20 or more points in 16 of the 21 games he’s played this season. He’s had seven games of 30 or more points. So, yeah, anybody who plays against Rose is in for a hard night. About the only thing Derrick hasn’t done is figure out a way to get to the free throw line consistently. When that happens…look out.
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau will have to figure out something to do about Danny Granger. After all, Granger has averaged 28.0 PPG in his last five games against the Bulls. That said, Granger is having a bit of a down year. His PER has dropped from 19.8 to 16.8 and he’s having a rough December: 6 games, 16.8 PPG, 35 percent shooting, and only 22 percent on threes.
And his last game — during which he went 3-for-14 from the field and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc — was one of his worst shooting performances of the season.
Concerns about Granger aside, Chicago’s real challenge will be shooting the basketball. Pacers opponents are shooting only 42.8 percent of their shots from the field this season. That’s the second-best FGP defense in the league, barely trailing the Miami Heat, who hold their opponents to 42.7 percent shooting.
Indy is getting it done with defense. No question about it.
The Bulls will need to be aggressive. Opponents don’t shoot well against the Pacers…but they go to the line. Indiana has given up 621 free throw attempts this season. That’s the ninth-most in the league. And eight-place Portland has given up only three more foul shots. It’s a weakness the Bulls need to exploit. Unfortunately, Chicago ranks 20th in total free throw attempts and a dismal 24th in Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt.
Let’s hope that can change tonight.