Over the past month, the Pacers can’t find their groove in third quarters.
Some stats are just so improbable, so crazy, so insane, that they merit an entire post. The Pacers third-quarter net rating is one of them.
In the month of March, third quarters for Indiana were impossibly bad. They had a net rating of -17.2, the 29th best rating in the league, and only .8 points better than the Knicks. The Knicks!
A cursory look at the advanced stats tells most of the story. They are all bad. Third quarter turnover rate? 27th in the league. Effective field goal percentage? 22nd leaguewide. Assist:turnover ratio? 25th. Offensive rebound rate? 28th.
Everything that they do in offense in the third quarter (henceforth referred to as turd quarter) is awful. They turn over the ball often and miss shots. And they don’t grab their minutes. I mean, come on, that’s like the worst recipe ever.
On the road, those numbers are worse. They finished with the worst road third-quarter net rating (I know, very specific) by a mile. -37.2. That almost seems impossible. The second worst team (the Nets) was -19.7. They were almost double as bad as the second worst team in these scenarios.
Let’s run through the advanced stats pallet. OREB% – 29th. Assist:turnover – 26th. Turnover rate – 25th. Effective field goal percentage – dead last, and by a lot. A 42.3 EFG% is awful. Everything sucks.
It was only 8 road games – and 14 games in total. So SSS alert. But at some point, it stops becoming a long coincidence and becomes a trend. This was a trend. It was obvious to everyone who watched the team.
The reasoning is hard to pinpoint, but I have a theory. Bojan Bogdanovic, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis all saw their EFG% remain fairly constant, if not improve, from 3rd quarters to other situations. The guards, meanwhile, all see their percentages fall, as does Doug McDermott. Thaddeus Young is in the “fall” category, too.
What does this mean? That opponents switch more in the second half, and the players who are more “switch proof” and the only ones who can score consistently. Turner can post up guards fine enough and his pick and pop threes are effective regardless of the defender. Domantas Sabonis can score on anyone. Bojan Bogdanovic is a multi-level scorer. All of these guys can score no matter what.
But in the second half, it feels as if teams come out of the break sending more switches at the Pacers. And even though those 3 players can thrive, everyone else can’t.
Darren Collison struggles to get by bigs on switches, despite his repeated trying. That puts more length against him, and he is less effective as a scorer when that occurs:
(Also, I’m going to scream if he takes another pull-up long two)
Wesley Matthews should be somewhat switch proof, but the Pacers don’t use him as a screener enough to get smaller players on him. Instead, his most common move is broken out with a bigger player on him, a stepback 3 off a hard dribble to the right.
Cory Joseph can’t make shit recently anyway (his EFG% falls from 30 to 29 percent). Tyreke Evans isn’t shifty enough to get by bigs. His euro step fools absolutely nobody, regardless of size, and his finishing is just flat out bad:
With McDermott, the switches happen away from the ball. Opposing teams don’t even want him to get up 3-point attempts. The Orlando Magic succeeded in this endeavor. If McDermott is prevented from doing the thing he does best, that hurts the team.
So opposing teams sink the Pacers in the second half by coming out with switches. Some of the team can still score, but over half of the rotation just completely falls apart in these situations. They resort to mismatch hunting iso-ball, and it doesn’t work to the tune on sub-.9 PPP.
The Pacers rank 19th in the league in our “one-on-one” player grade. And that number is entirely propped up by Sabonis and Bogdanovic, everyone else grades out just moderately. The team needs better strategies against switching defenses.
Screen away from the play! Create some offense from the post! Cut! Have Wesley Matthews set screens! Just do something else instead of trying to brute force your way into inefficient mismatches. Something has to be better than what is happening now because it comletely stinks.
These turd quarters will continue until the Pacers can find a more effective way to execute on offense against this defensive strategy. Until then, the team will continue to flounder when the second half begins.