Game Five Preview: Pacers at Wolves in the Target Center
Mike Brown ruined my day and I forgot about this preview.
Well, I guess Mike Brown didn’t ruin my day. It was more the Lakers’ fault. When Brown got fired, I was prepared to post this preview, head to the gym, and keep the revolution moving on in Assassin’s Creed III after I played some basketball. Instead, the feces hit the fan and I ended up writing about why Mike D’Antoni would make sense with the Lakers’ current crop. Give it a read if you don’t mind. Actually, you don’t have to read it; just click if you don’t mind.
But the Mike Brown noise made me think about how lucky this Wolves team is right now. The Lakers should have gone after Rick Adelman during the 2011 offseason. He was there for the taking, and I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have taken the job if offered before the Wolves got involved with their coaching search. Instead, the Lakers grabbed Mike Brown, gave him a year, gave him a new team, and gave him a pink slip after five games in his second year.
We don’t have to worry about coaching for a while. Adelman is one of the best in the league and he’s our team’s coach for at least the next three years. After that, there will probably be a succession plan in place. If Adelman wasn’t here, I’m not sure who would be the coach but certainly wouldn’t be a coach with the acumen that Rick has. I’m not sure Kevin Love would be happy or the new role players would be here or Pek would be blossoming at this point in his career, if at all.
We may still be in a good place as a franchise with someone else, but I don’t think we’d be as excited as we are. So it’s nice that the Lakers screwed up and we benefited from it.
For today/tonight’s 3-on-3, I’ve grabbed Jared Wade of EightPointsNineSeconds and James Herbert of HoopSpeak.com and Hardwood Paroxysm fame. We’ve got a good one in the next 45 minutes.
Jared Wade, EightPointsNineSeconds.com: “Adjusting” would be a good, politically correct way to put it if you were the Pacers’ marketing director. “Imploding,” “Titanic-ing” or “self-immolating” would be closer to accurate. Only three teams are playing worse offense so far in this (short) season: NOLA, Philly and DC. To be fair (if you should to a team putting up less than a point per possession), they did look like a competent team against Atlanta the other night until their disastrous fourth quarter. They shot 31-for-66 (47.0%) and 7-for-20 (35.0%) from behind the arc and had the Hawks on the ropes before missing 15 of their 19 attempts and scoring just 9 points in the final period. In short, they have been horrible and utterly unable to get anything going for huge stretches in almost every game so far this season.
James Herbert, HoopSpeak.com: Uh, not wonderfully. Frank Vogel loves to say that the Pacers’ strength is that they have multiple weapons and he’s right. On any given night, David West, Roy Hibbert, George Hill and Paul George are all capable of going off for 20 points. But Granger is far and away their best player in terms of creating offense off the dribble and, with him sidelined, those other guys are easier to stop. The hope is that a) George will earn and take advantage of opportunities to do more of the things Granger did and/or b) Hibbert will pick up his scoring in the post, draw more double teams and create easier shots for other players. I can’t think of anything else that will fix this and if nothing changes, it’s going to be ugly.
Zach Harper, A Wolf Among Wolves: Yeah, it’s been rough. Paul George isn’t the creator that Danny Granger is off the dribble, and the defense isn’t focusing in on him like they do with Granger. This causes a lot less open looks for everybody else and unless David West goes into Hulk mode, the Pacers really seem to struggle to have a focus. I think it can open up easily with George Hill scoring better off of pick-and-rolls or George getting more going to the hoop. Or maybe it’s simply a matter of Roy Hibbert and David West scoring on the block.
2. Roy Hibbert has struggled to the start the season. What’s wrong with his game right now?
Wade: It’s hard to say. In some ways, he doesn’t look that different than he did last year in terms of getting the ball in decent spots. But he is just making very poor post moves and seems to have no touch around the rim. He has shot just 5-for-14 from the paint (outside the restricted area), where he shot 52% last year, so some of it is just bad finishes. He is still 7’2″ so, when he locks into a good turnaround hook shot, there isn’t a guy in the who can even disrupt it. So far this year, however, he’s more flinging stuff up that looking fluid and in rhythm.
Herbert: I wish I could answer this question with more confidence. Hibbert says he’s in a funk. Vogel says he’s not concerned. All I know is this team’s offense is a mess and Hibbert’s lack of production is likely the biggest reason for it. You’d hope, after his big payday, that Indiana’s All-Star center would come in and establish himself as their clear No. 1 option with Granger sidelined. This is not what has happened, to say the least. But if you’re the optimistic sort, I will point out that at the beginning of last March, Hibbert had a four-game stretch where he shot 6-for-27. Every player has cold stretches and that might be all this is. It’s just unfortunate that it’s happening when his team desperately needs him to give them more.
Harper: I talked to him during the pregame and he thinks it’s just a matter of missing shots. I tend to believe him because it looks like he’s getting decent looks within the flow of the offense. He’s hitting just 42 percent of his shots, which isn’t really like him. Pekovic might be a good matchup for him tonight. Pek is strong enough to get him off the block, but Roy can be confident that his shot won’t really be bothered on the release. Maybe that little bit of space will be enough to get him going.
3. Has the second unit been as bad as the numbers make it look right now?
Wade: Oh yeah. DJ Augustin has been a nightmare and Gerald Green looks more like the guy who played his way out of the league than the guy we saw making plays all over the court last year in New Jersey. Tyler Hansbrough has actually played better than last year while Lance Stephenson has been someone of a revelation. He had several blunders that helped the Hawks come back and win Wednesday, but he has otherwise looked like a highly competent basketball player, which is something I’ve never seen much of during actual NBA games. Some of it is just him making some shots (something he has never been good at) but there is also a decided calm about him and a sense that he knows which decision he should make when he has the ball based on his available options.
Herbert: In short: yes. I mean, the only positive is that Lance Stephenson has looked pretty good on a couple of occasions. As someone who grew up on SLAM, this is exciting. The rest? Ugh. D.J. Augustin is better than this, right? No? Welp. Perhaps they should sign Kenyon Martin.
Harper: Is it possible for Frank Vogel to turn off fatigue? Is that something you can do in real life? Maybe like a video game version of the movie Click? I caught the last 45 minutes of Click the other day and I couldn’t believe how atrocious it was. Adam Sandler would have phoned that in if he had the energy to pick up the phone to do it. Instead, he just vomited onto a movie reel and gave it to the studio. And they released it because his name will get you money. That’s how bad the Pacers bench is right now. I’d rather talk about the movie Click.
Place: Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Time: 7pm Central Time
Viewing and listening pleasure: My29 tonight and you can listen to it on 830 WCCO.
Records: Wolves are 3-1 and Pacers are 2-3.
Feeling good about this team right now. Four stoic Kirilenko’s and a T-Hud.