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All of the reasons why the Pacers defense has slipped

All of the reasons why the Pacers defense has slipped
Published On: Fri, Jan 11
Apr 5, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers Pacemate performs a dance routine during a game against the Miami Heat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 112-89. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

After leading the league in defensive rating (at 101.9 points per 100 possessions) through theirA first 34 games, the Pacers have ranked 26th in defensive efficiency (114.7)A since. And five of their seven games in that stretch have come against bottom-10 offenses.

Outside of the master class in hustle they put on against Detroit, in which it appeared as though they needed a stop as much as their next breath, theya€™ve been forced to hold on for dear life (oh, hi, Cleveland storming back with 72 second-half points) or fight fire with fire (hey, almost didna€™t see you there, Atlanta and Chicago).

That was fine against lowly opponents, not so much against Eastern Conference contenders.

All they saw was smoke against Toronto and Boston, surrendering 121 and then 135 while losing by an average margin of 21.5 points.

Herea€™s whata€™s been going on.

Myles TurnerA is out

Playing the fourth game of a five-game road trip on the second night of a back-to-back in Boston, the Pacers were aA step slow disrupting passing lanes. TheyA struggled to stay cognizant of cuttersA whenA Al HorfordA caught the ball with both feet in the lane. And they made straight-line drives look like leisurely afternoon strolls in the park.

As Nate McMillan described it, they looked a€œgassed.a€

Exacerbating the sluggishness, however, was the conspicuous absence of the teama€™s safety net.

Despite entering the game as one of the lowest scoring teams in the paint, theA CelticsA racked up 56 paint points, repeatedly gaining chest-to-shoulder advantage without need of a screen and then finishing with ease without the repellent ofA Turnera€™s anti-gravity.

For all of his hyper-productive strengths, Sabonis just doesna€™t have the closing speed and impeccable timing of the player he understudies.

a€œWe know wea€™re better than that,a€ McMillan told reporters following the lopsided loss. a€œOf course, wea€™re missing the anchor of our defense but wea€™ve got to continue to work.a€

Turner is leading the league in blocks and hea€™s defended the third-most shots per game within 6-feet of the basket. On high-volume, Indianaa€™s starting center has held opponents to a ridiculously stingy 53.4 percent on those shots, a mark nine percent worse than their average.

Notably, the Pacers didna€™t record a single block against the Celtics for only the second time this season (the first being the night before in Cleveland), and the combination of tired legs mixed with altered lineups and perhaps more conservative perimeter defense translated into just three turnovers being forced by halftime.

Read the complete news article here...

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