San Antonio Spurs: Pacers offer similarities on offense to Magic
By Rob Wolkenbrod
The San Antonio Spurs will face a similar recipe on offense, against the Indiana Pacers, that the Orlando Magic displayed.
Raise your hand if you thought the Orlando Magic would blow the San Antonio Spurs out by nearly 30 points. It happened, and it wasn’t a pleasant sight. The Spurs played flat for all 48 minutes, finding small bursts of sunshine before being sent crashing back to earth by unguardable shooting and points off turnovers.
A somewhat quick turnaround has the Spurs facing the Indiana Pacers, the third consecutive road game. 2017-18 is a rebuilding year for the Pacers after losing Paul George, Jeff Teague and CJ Miles from last year’s team, but they haven’t looked like a defenseless unit that’s bound to get run over.
The Spurs struggled against a Magic team that pushed the ball at a fast pace and found efficiency from all parts of the court. Indiana doesn’t have the raw, young talent from top to bottom (they won’t have Myles Turner, arguably its best player), but they will attack at a similar rate. Their Pace Factor entering Sunday’s game is 101.9, ranking seventh in the NBA (the Magic are fourth). They run at a quick tempo and pick up an above-average amount of possessions per 48 minutes, almost the complete opposite of the Spurs and their slower way of playing.
Indiana has a 48.5 field goal percentage through five games, ranking third in the NBA and one spot behind Orlando. Attribute that to remarkable play from offseason acquisition Victor Oladipo, who is the team’s primary scorer and among the early league leaders in points per game — 26 points on 50 percent shooting. He’s the leader of this fast-paced offense, as Ben Gibson of 8 Points, 9 Seconds wrote.
Last night in OKC, Victor Oladipo scored 35 points, the most any #Pacers player has scored this season. pic.twitter.com/IUzPCmHVEj
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 26, 2017
Behind Oladipo and this high-ranking field goal percentage, the Pacers are fourth in the NBA in points per game at 114 on 1.11 points per possession, via Inpredictable. Again, both stats fall just behind the Magic. They make the most of their shots on the floor, taking a high amount of field goal attempts but among the lowest in 3-point shooting. It’s all about efficiency for the Pacers, taking fewer shots from behind the arc than most teams and taking more two-point field goals than most teams. Their 72.5 percentage of attempts from two-point range ranks seventh in the NBA (the Spurs are first).
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So, could the Spurs have some trouble on defense? We’ll see if the Magic’s style of play that overrode them was just a blip on the radar or a problem that persists against the fastest NBA teams. It’s not like San Antonio will revert from its usual slow play they’ve shown for most of Gregg Popovich’s tenure, so Sunday’s game will show if adjustments can be made to slow down a fast team.
It’s a different story on defense, however. The Pacers have allowed opponents to shoot 49 percent, the second-worst mark in the NBA. Through this, they let everyone shoot an absurd 40.3 percent from 3-point range, the third-worst in the league. These aren’t the detailed stats of the offensive numbers but paint a more direct picture of this poor defense.
To put this in perspective, the Magic allow opponents to shoot just 41.5 percent from the field and 27.3 from behind the arc. Both are in the top three of the league, with the latter stat as the best of all 30 teams.
What also goes against the Pacers? They won’t have rising center, Myles Turner. Meaning LaMarcus Aldridge will get to feast on youngster Domantas Sabonis and Thaddeus Young inside, along with an aging and less effective Al Jefferson, never known for his post defense. Is it time for another double-double for Aldridge?
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The Spurs can’t take the Pacers lightly but may still have their way on offense. It’s an opportunity to break out of Friday’s funk and be ready for tough Week 3 games against the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors.