For one potent defense, it appears there is a sloppy offense. The Indiana Pacers have developed (and maintained) a reputation of a team that can hold the best scoring units to tough looks at the basket, but have also been known to display lackluster ball security and control.
After turning over the ball a season-high 23 times in a loss to the Toronto Raptors to begin the new year, the Pacers are now 25-6 and have a one game lead in the Eastern Conference standings over the Miami Heat.
This season has been infested with turnovers for East-leading Pacers, regardless of how well they have performed against top competition. Indiana has averaged 15.1 turnovers per game (31 games). If that isn’t alarming enough, the Pacers’ turnover ratio is the 6th highest in the NBA at 16.4 percent.
It might not be a tremendous deal at the moment, with Indiana becoming the last team to get a sixth loss on their record. However, this is the same type of play that we remember costing Indiana a trip to the NBA Finals last May. Against teams with prolific superstars and, on top of that, teams that are nearly unstoppable in the fast break, turnovers have to be limited before the Playoffs even arrive. The best medicine to cure it, would be to start taking care of the ball now, at the beginning of January, and make it a theme for the rest of the season. A New Years Resolution, if you will.
The Pacers are now 5-4 on the second night of back-to-back games, which is also an indicator that the team isn’t coming out with strong energy after a win to start the 2-game stretch. Their energy level at home has been outstanding, but coming out assertive on the road while taking care of the ball is the only way Indiana has a shot to gain more praise and become known as the “NBA’s best.”
While Indiana as a whole isn’t secure with every possession, Paul George is taking a bit of unfair criticism for his turnovers. In Wednesday’s loss at Toronto, George tallied six turnovers in his second worst performance of the year (the Pacers’ first loss at Chicago still remains his most disappointing). Along with the six giveaways, George scored just 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting and finished with a -21 plus/minus rating, the lowest of anyone in the game. With that being said, George isn’t largely separated from the two players he mirrors the most; LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Of the three small forwards, George does rank third in the “Assist to Turnover ratio” department, but only because he hasn’t been known to be a play-maker in Indiana’s offense….yet.
Assist to Turnover ratio (this season):
- LeBron James – 1.88 (6.6 assists, 3.5 turnovers per game)
- Kevin Durant – 1.5 (4.8 assists, 3.2 turnovers per game)
- Paul George – 1.29 (3.5 assists, 2.7 turnovers per game)
George does make costly mistakes at times and can be indecisive, but he’s still adapting to becoming a ball-dominant star. Let’s not forget that.
The next culprit in the turnover department is the always entertaining Lance Stephenson. This season, Stephenson has been, to many, a frontrunner for Most Improved Player of the Year. He has averaged 13.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game while shooting 48.7 percent at the starting shooting guard position. Stephenson is also leading the league in triple doubles, achieving three of them thus far. However, the people that know Lance’s style of play are aware of how wild he can be at times, and occasionally make head-scratching decisions. Stephenson averages the second most turnovers for Indiana with 2.5 per contest. With him remaining in the starting lineup the rest of the season (it appears Vogel wants to go that route), maturity will have to set in with the 23-year-old guard that is playing with a lot of swagger this year. Just keep it under the confines of the offense and be smart with the basketball.
What the Indiana Pacers can possibly do to tone down on the giveaways is quite simple. Delivering the ball into the post more often limits the amount of unnecessary dribbling and risky passing along the perimeter. Hibbert has proven that his post arsenal has been impressive this season, and his deep position in the post can open up shooters better than any other method Vogel and the coaching staff implement. By allowing Hibbert and David West to operate with the ball a handful more of possessions, things could change from “sloppy” to effective for a team that currently ranks 20th in points scored.
Taking care of the ball seems to be the aspect that will make them nearly unbeatable if they can value every possession with the same mentality; don’t give it away.