The Indiana Pacers took down the Detroit Pistons 125-88 in the most fun game of the year. Let’s revisit the joy of the action.
Winning by 35 is cool. Winning by 37 is even cooler, as Kyle O’Quinn unsportingly put in a layup with 1 second left to end the Pacers dominant win over the Pistons.
Pretty much everything went right for the Pacers. The defense was excellent, holding Detroit to 37.4 percent shooting and limiting them to 12 free throws attempts. Forcing 22 turnovers and limited Andre Drummond on the glass was just the icing on the cake on that end of the floor.
Offensively, it was a similar story of success. The Pacers shot 70 percent on two-point attempts and fired around terrific ball movement. Combine that with their defense, and it is clear why they were able to win by nearly 40 points.
It’s fun to reminisce, so let’s do it! Starting with some observations.
Tyreke Evans is putting some stuff together
That’s two good games in a row from Evans, who had 10 points and 3 assists with only 1 turnover. Evans had been struggling for a long time. He only had two games with a game score over 10 in the 18 games leading up to the recent pair. In the last two games, he had a game score over 10 in both.
Granted, game score isn’t great, but Evans improved play has been noticeable (and right after I wrote about his struggles, too). He has looked decisive and effective in these past two games. Hopefully, the knee injury he is now getting injections for was the problem all along. His luck-adjusted impact, measured via Player Impact Plus Minus, tells a similar tale. Evans’ offensive PIPM has jumped up to being +1.16 over the last two games after being -0.99 for the large sample before this recent stretch. He’s playing better and the team is benefitting.
Good Darren Collison is incredibly valuable
The Pacers are 12-4 when Darren Collison scores 10+ points. I get how silly those stats are. “When a role player scores more points, a team does better!”. Because, like, duh. But in a season where Collison has been really struggling from the field, it is important to note how good the team is when he plays effectively.
He was insanely good in this game, and so were the Pacers. That’s not a coincidence. Hopefully, he can put together more performances like this.
Cory Joseph just wrecks everything on defense
2 steals is essentially nothing for Cory Joseph, who just flies around the court on defense. But he does literally everything well on that end of the court.
He is spry and amazing at closeouts, and he ensures there are no easy buckets going down the middle of the floor. In this game, his defensive rating was 89 in this game, and he was a +22. The advanced data backs that up as well. Our BBall Index Perimeter Defense metric has Joseph 3rd in the entire NBA among guards. CoJo is just amazing on this end of the floor.
This game supplied some questions too, one major one and one minor one:
Is Victor Oladipo’s role going to stay reduced?
Victor Oladipo’s usage rate since returning from injury? 24.45. Before? 31.18. His role has clearly been reduced in some capacity. But it hasn’t been… worse?
He averaged 4.7 assists pre-injury and 6.7 since. His net rating is actually better since his return than it was before the injury. He is reading the coverages thrown and him and responding well, but it definitely looks different.
Should Alize Johnson be getting some minutes?
Alize wasn’t even active in this game since he was with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. That is fine. But he needs to get some time with the pros. Badly.
He’s averaging 18.5 points and 14.8 rebounds per game in the G-League. He has earned the right to play at least in garbage time with the Pacers. I think they should recall him from the minors.
I am going to take this opportunity to make a bold prediction.
The Pacers don’t shake up their rotation this year
There have been calls to shake up the rotations in various ways. Start Cory Joseph. Bench Evans for Holiday. Start Sabonis.
Nobody is wrong in their opinions. We are all watching the same games, we are just interpreting what is happening differently. But now the team is rolling with their current rotation. Unless something drastic happens, I see no reason to shake things up. Nothing drastic would improve the team by anything more than minuscule margins. I don’t think any rotation shakeup makes any sense at this point in time, and I doubt anything ever happens this year.
What a game. What a fun month. Tonight, it closes up. Hopefully, the Pacers keep it rolling.