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Indiana Pacers 100, Houston Rockets 91 – A Lesson in Defense

Paul George is a beast on defense. Any time James Harden would make his way to the rim, to the three point line, or even to the scorers table to check in, Paul George was there.  His fancy eurostep tempts defenders into giving up position on the drive. Not so for Paul George. He simply stayed the course, cutting off any chance for Harden to make big plays. With Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson leading the offense, a hundred points was all it took to put Houston away. The Pacers came to town and showed the Rockets how to play defense.

The Rockets once again came out of the game slow, managing only 5 points in the first 5 minutes. Not for the first time, we’re left wondering just what would have happened if the first quarter’s effort resembled the last three. After fighting out of a 35-19 hole, the Rockets were able to trim the lead down to five midway through the game, but the Pacers were always there to push it back up to double digits. Their gameplan of lane-denying physicality on the defensive end and stalwart back to the basket play on offense was simple and effective. Roy Hibbert was too long and too strong for even Asik to reliably stop in the post, and the Pacers recognized Harden’s light defense, letting Lance Stephenson have the ball as much as he wanted.

On the plus side, Chandler Parsons played exceptional defense on Paul George all night, keeping him to a paltry 4-17 from the floor. Free throws eventually filled out his points, but Indiana’s all star was not much of a factor on offense because of Parsons. Greg Smith also had a phenomenal game, racking up 18 points and 19 rebounds in 32 minutes. When Omer Asik sat down 8 minutes into the game, Smith was there to attack the inside. Eventually the Pacers began to focus on disallowing Smith from catching passes, and this led to some critical turnovers late in the game. On a night where everything was going wrong for Houston, Greg Smith was a crucial bright spot.

The darkest spot was of course James Harden’s inability to solve Paul George’s defense. Harden actually ended the night with more attempts than points, 22 points on 24 shots. He hit only 6 shots, and attempted only 9 free throws, both of which are very poor for him. He made some degree of adjustment and looked for his teammates, but his 8 assists weren’t enough to turn the tides in Indiana’s favor.

Lin came out aggressive, and was often times one of the few players getting through Indiana’s defense. However, he sat during much of the last half of the game, only checking in with a few minutes left. Perhaps it was Patrick Beverley’s defense which held George Hill to 2 points on 11 shots, or maybe Beverley’s timely shots impressed head coach Kevin McHale. Whatever the reason, Lin got plenty of rest.

Parsons and Asik both played very solid defense, and the Rockets actually looked solid on that end most of the night. They were still prone to a few frustrating breakdowns defensively, but the team seems to be gradually pulling it together. Neither was a huge contributor on offense, Chandler with 11 and Omer with 8 points, but at least Asik shot an efficient 3-5. Parsons had a poor night, shooting only 5-14, including 0-3 on threes.

Donatas Motiejunas missed 2 shots, grabbed 2 rebounds, blocked a shot and fouled 4 times in 13 minutes. Tyler Hansborough shot right through his defense, and Motiejunas got very little burn on the evening.

While Carlos Delfino tried to do too much tonight, Thomas Robinson was doing more and it was working. Delfino shot 2-6 and missed some shots after fancy spin moves and drives. Robinson, on the other hand, forced the ball down the Pacers’ throats, spun to the basket and grabbed offensive boards with gusto. He’s working hard for his minutes, and his 10 points on 50% shooting and 4 offensive rebounds are a result of that. With one steal to cap it off, Robinson is already looking like a useful member of the rotation, which bodes well for his future in the league.

While losing any game at home hurts, the Rockets had given themselves some wiggle room with an emotional win over the Spurs. Getting schooled on defense is a painful process, but there’s a silver lining. If the Rockets can learn anything from the lessons the Pacers just handed them, they stand that much more of a chance in the future. With a critical division rivalry game against the Grizzlies coming up next, the Rockets need any lessons they can get.

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  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago

    T-Rob made a couple rookie mistakes on D like that blatant reach, but all-in-all I didn't think he was any worse defensively than d-mo last night. D-mo, I agree with Bob,gets pushed around too easily and you really can't say that about T-Rob, he lacks polish but not the bulk, and D-mo lacks both somewhat.The T-rob/Smith combo did really start to control the paint and wreak havoc down there in the 2nd quarter. He looked like he was finally getting into some sort ofrhythm by the time he was benched.It looked like Harden was beginning to trust him too at the end of that stretch as evidenced by the alley-oop. I think given more time, the rotation of Beverley, Harden, Parsons, Robinson and Smith could develop some pretty interesting chemistry, whereas we've been forced to play the spread the floor, drive and kick game due to the rotations available (Lin, Pat, Morris instead), with this one, we can play some inside-out big boy ball. Congrats to Smith on a career night. The mechanics of Motie's 3 point shot looks awful.

  • bob schmidt says 1 YEAR ago It seems to me that some games (last night for example) we do not adjust to the officials as quickly as we should. It was obvious that the physical play of Indy killed us in the first quarter. I wish that McHale had a quicker hook to adjust the lineup to upset our opponents game plan. Last night we once again insisted upon challenging their length in the paint, and had little success. The game was decided in the 1st quarter. If we had "gone big" after it became obvious that the refs were not calling fouls, we might have forced the officials to call fouls by meeting their length with our own big lineup. Inserting Smith at the 4, and forcing Hibbert and crew to defend their size might have opened up Harden, Parsons, and Lin for scoring opportunities. Another option might have been to go extremely small and quick with our lineup to force Indy to match up with an unexpected small lineup. The point is, had we reacted quickly, we might have thrown off their game plan before the hole was too deep. I was wishing that Terrence Jones was available to serve as our "Mr. Nasty" perhaps, when it was obvious that Motie was being seriously pushed around in the paint, and ineffective as a result. Another "creative lineup" that might be fun to see sometime would be Brooks (or Lin), and Beverly at the guards, Harden at the three, and Parsons at PF. With Asik or Smith at the 5, teams would play hell to match up with our lineup... My major point is this, an unexpected lineup might really screw up a tough opponents game plan and help us avoid falling so far behind. Even though we lost, I am proud of our team for winning the last 3 quarters. Hopefully, we'll figure out how to get off to better starts in the future.
  • Sir Thursday says 1 YEAR ago

    Two things perplexed me about last night's game. Why didn't we see any more of T-Rob in the second half? Seeing as how Asik was a couple steps slow compared to Hibbert and it was obvious, and the presence of BOTH Smith and Robinson on the floor was the difference maker that allowed us to close the lead to 5? Also why did Delfino get so many minutes last night when he was obviously hobbled and ineffective form the get go? His poor decision making late in the game last night almost makes me want to rescind my vote to keep him in thatotherpost.

    You have to remember that for all that Robinson provided some energy on offense, his defence was absolutely atrocious. He got manhandled by Hansbrough in the first quarter, and I suspect if it hadn't been for Motiejunas already having two fouls McHale would have pulled him out. I suspect that's why he didn't see the court in the second half.

    I thought Asik's defence on Hibbert was much improved in the second half - he wasn't able to dominate the offensive glass the way he did earlier in the game and in the one-on-one possessions I thought he did a good job of denying him the post position he needed to get that hook working.

    The key to this game, as I saw it, was just how well the Pacers were able to shut down the Rockets' drive and kick game. They did a great job of collapsing in on the driver - it was very rare that Lin or Harden could get a shot off in there - but what made it all work was just how excellent they were at closing out on shooters when the ball was kicked out. So many times the three point shooter (usually Parsons) would have to have to check his shot because of the speed and length of the on-rushing Pacers defender. There was one particularly spectacular one where Gerald Green managed to block a three point shot, IIRC. Not being able to shoot that three pointer consistently really bogged down the offence. It was only when they realised they needed to get away from that and started to switch to more conventional pick and rolls (which considering their defensive reputation the Pacers were surprisingly bad at stopping) that the Rockets were able to get their offense flowing and get back into the game.

    ST

  • thenit says 1 YEAR ago

    Two things perplexed me about last night's game. Why didn't we see any more of T-Rob in the second half? Seeing as how Asik was a couple steps slow compared to Hibbert and it was obvious, and the presence of BOTH Smith and Robinson on the floor was the difference maker that allowed us to close the lead to 5? Also why did Delfino get so many minutes last night when he was obviously hobbled and ineffective form the get go? His poor decision making late in the game last night almost makes me want to rescind my vote to keep him in thatotherpost.

    Agree with your sentiment, these situations are the reasons I don't like what Mchale is doing. He has different levels of trusts on players. Delfino will get his minutes no matter if he is cold or hot. His poor decision making and selection of shots has cost us more than a few games.

    Robinson's hustle combined with D-mo ineffectiveness should have let Robinson play a lot more in the 2nd half instead he went with Delfino at the four despite his struggles.

    Asik played well in the 3rd and Smith had a great game except for a few situations when delfino and Harden decides to throw the ball on smiths feet in a couple of consecutive possesions which lead to turnovers.

    Lin wasn't terrible yesterday, except for the 1st quarter where he had 3 bad turnovers. Asik and Lin was the only starters who shot 50% or better and for love of God I don't see why you sit them for basically the whole 2nd half after they played the first 7-8 minutes of the 3rd Quarter and insert them when the game is almost over when they actually played well in the 3rd Q.

    Beverley played ok, but he was fairly effective in the 2nd Quarter when Harden came back in around the 6 min mark. These are the situation when Bev excels with Harden being hte player initiating the offense. The 2nd half he was not quite as effective and this is where I believe that Mchale should have played Lin earlier in the 4th then waiting until its there is less than 5 minutes to go in a 11p game to insert Lin.

    Harden had a tough game with George playing great defence on him as he did in the previous game. This is why I pray to god that we don't play the nuggets. There aren't many players who can limit Harden the way George and Iggy does. Harden will bounce back, but in a game like this when he is ineffective offensively, I wish he could at least focus instead of barking at the ref everytime he doesn't get a call and also focus on defence to affect the game in other areas. No way it should be that hard to guard stephensen.

    Indiana is just one of the teams that our system don't play well against. Lets hope we can play better against the Grizz.

  • Alituro says 1 YEAR ago

    Two things perplexed me about last night's game. Why didn't we see any more of T-Rob in the second half? Seeing as how Asik was a couple steps slow compared to Hibbert and it was obvious, and the presence of BOTH Smith and Robinson on the floor was the difference maker that allowed us to close the lead to 5? Also why did Delfino get so many minutes last night when he was obviously hobbled and ineffective form the get go? His poor decision making late in the game last night almost makes me want to rescind my vote to keep him in thatotherpost.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 YEAR ago

    Good recap. Hibbert couldn't miss. Stephenson looked amazingly big and fast. Their defense was very good, but we helped them. Parsons started taking Larry Bird difficulty shots. Harden stubbornly refused to recognize the refs weren't going to blow the whistle. We got away from the three for a long stretch despite not being able to get to the rim. Bad passes everywhere. Ugh. I hate to cry bad officiating, but I did feel they were rewarding the Pacers' overall defensive effort with allowing them more leeway on contact against us. I felt it was a tad skewed their way, but that isn't why we lost so no big deal.

    The Pacers definitely looked good tonight...and that was without David West.

  • Suhas says 1 YEAR ago Paul George is scary good. My pick for dpoy. He's just 22 and is probably a top 3 two-way perimeter guy is this league. Indy could be good for a long time, and if they can Get Hibbert going like tonight, they are Heat kryptonite.
  • Red94 says 1 YEAR ago New post: [video] Paul George after Pacers knock off Rockets
  • Red94 says 1 YEAR ago New post: Indiana Pacers 100, Houston Rockets 91 - A Lesson in Defense

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