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Pacers vs Pistons preview: New coach, teammates but Indiana is still George’s team

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Indiana depending on Paul George more than ever.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The summer of 2016 saw Pacers’ president Larry Bird relieve Frank Vogel of his head coaching duties. Vogel found respectable success with the franchise including memorable postseason battles with the then Eastern Conference powerhouse Miami Heat. Vogel’s teams typically finished with a pedestrian or worse offense and an elite defense but Bird envisioned a quicker, up and down system moving forward.

Enter Nate McMillan.

McMillan’s history didn’t exactly exude speed, which, from the outside, made the move hard to justify. The coaching swap wasn’t the only change, though, as the Pacers also acquired Jeff Teague, Thad Young and the not-so-fleet-of-foot Al Jefferson to support superstar Paul George and promising sophomore Myles Turner.

Results have been mixed. The Pacers hover around a top-10 pace team (they finished 11th last season) but typically get killed on the boards (29th in rebound percentage) and own a negative net rating.

Game Vitals

When: Saturday, December 17th @ 7p.m. EST
Where: Palace of Auburn Hills; Auburn Hills, MI
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit Plus

Analysis

Despite the coaching change, the Pacers still revolve around one of the best two-way players in the game, Paul George. The Pacers utilize George in many ways but using him as the screener in a pick-and-roll situation is my absolute favorite. Using a playmaker like George as the screener allows him to roll, pop or slip the screen with a high degree of success:

I really wish the Pistons did this more with Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris screening for Reggie Jackson. Neither are at George’s level, but both can knock down an open look and create for teammates.

Below should look familiar as the Pistons run the same play for Jon Leuer in George’s place. George will set a back screen on Myles Turner’s defender as Turner is simultaneously picking (and rolling) for Stuckey. After George’s man inevitably helps on the back screen, George pops out for an open look:

It’s actually pretty slick.

****

Whether you’re an up tempo team or not, shooting helps create space, and McMillan’s Pacers are no different.

George is the Pacers’ volume 3-point shooter, but C.J Miles and Thad Young are having respectable years beyond the arc. Having a reliable low-post presence would stretch defenses even more, and while Myles Turner’s back-to-the-basket game still needs polish, he’s athletic enough to draw attention.

This:

Will lead to this:

And vice versa.

****

The Pistons have been a top tier defense all season long but defending the pick and roll still causes trouble as over-committing to the ball handler or getting sucked in on the weakside is typically at fault.

Against Charlotte - another superb defensive unit - Marvin Williams jumps the pick and roll a tad too early and Thad Young alters his route accordingly. The result is an easy bucket for the Pacers.

If you’re guessing or assuming on defense, you will get burnt.

Projected Lineup

Indiana

Jeff Teague, Glenn Robinson, Myles Turner, Thad Young, Paul George

Both Rodney Stuckey and Monta Ellis are battling nagging injuries; stay tuned to the Gamethread for updates.

Detroit

Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Andre Drummond, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris

Prediction

This will be the third game in four nights for the Pistons which is never a good thing; keep an eye on Reggie Jackson as he returns to clocking regular minutes.

George is going to be a handful and it’s going to take a team effort to defend him; he thrives in catch and shoot opportunities and the Pistons should look to run him off the jump shot.

Both Pistons and Pacers figure to be in the post season hunt and every game against each other is ever so important.

Pacers 93, Pistons 103