Posted on: February 10, 2011 11:55 am
Posted by Royce Young
A few weeks ago, there were a few stories out that the Pacers wanted to fire then-coach Jim O'Brien. The problem was that there wasn't a suitable replacement on the current bench. Nobody was worthy of even the interim tag.
But that Pacers pulled the trigger anyway and promoted Frank Vogel to head coach, where he's the youngest in the league at 37.
It didn't look like a great move for Indiana. The season was already slipping away after a promising start, players were regressing and now the most unproven coach you could have was taking over? Things were expected to go from bad to worse and in a hurry.
Except the Pacers won their first game under Vogel. Then their second. Then thier third, and fourth. They lost the fifth, a fantastic effort against the Miami Heat in Miami, but responsed Wednesday with a big win over Charlotte, which actually put them back in eighth in the East. Under Vogel, the new coach who supposedly couldn't coach, Indiana is 5-1.
Now before we get too excited and start touting him for awards, it's not like the Pacers are beating the league's best teams. The wins have come against Toronto, Cleveland, the wounded Blazers, New Jersey and Charlotte. Not a murderer's row, but that's the thing: Under O'Brien, the Pacers weren't beating teams they should. So far under Vogel, they are.
They're playing different too. Everything is looser. The charge from the front office when Vogel took over was to play faster and play younger. That's happening. Under O'Brien, the team was one of the worst offensive teams in the league, relying almost exclusively on good shooting. They averaged under 98.0 points per game and had nights where they seriously couldn't score.
With Vogel manning the wheel, Indiana is playing faster and averaging 107.0 points per game and have topped the century mark in all six games. This is against some stout defensive units too, like the Heat, Blazers and Bobcats.
A few more, via Indy Cornrows: offensive rating is 110.1 under Vogel, 104.0 under O'Brien; free throw attempts have increased by nearly 10 a game; and defensive has improved in a big way, going from 105.6 points per 100 possessions under O'Brien to 97.7 under Vogel. The Pacers have... improved.
You really don't have to look further than Roy Hibbert to see what's going on. He started out the season in a big way, averaging 15.6 and 9.4 rebounds in November. But under the apparent oppression of O'Brien, Hibbert fell off the face of the earth. He averged a little over 10 points a game in December and just 9.5 in January.
Since the change, Hibbert is averaging 18.6 ppg and 8.3 rpg. So tell me something isn't different now. I wonder if a player can win Most Improved just for the change made in a month.
Vogel put the change this way: "We're changing the identity of our basketball team dramatically. We are a power-post team, blood and guts, old school, smash-mouth team that plays with size, strength, speed, athleticism. We attack the basket."
Whatever it is, it's working. And working well. The Pacers are back in the playoff hunt in the East and behind Vogel, are playing way better. He may not be doing anything. He may just be giving a little pep talk and getting out of the way. But whatever it is, he deserves credit but the Pacers have opened up and are playing loose.
A change was needed in Indy and it's a good thing they decided to trust in their supposedly unfit assistant.
Posted on: February 9, 2011 2:03 am
Edited on: February 9, 2011 2:09 am
The Miami Heat get an easy one thanks to a late-game meltdown by the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James gets way up, Blake Griffin throws down the Alley Oop and Chauncey Billups looks cold. Plus, plenty more. Posted by Ben Golliver.
Each game is made up of elements that help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the previous night's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what led to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.
THE BIG ONE: PACERS CHOKE AGAINST HEATThe Indiana Pacers and their new teenage-looking coach Frank Vogel are hard to root against, as the sacking of Jim O'Brien immediately produced a four-game winning streak for a team that had only won four games in the month prior to his dismissal.
The winning came to an end -- and Vogel's undefeated head coaching record was finally tarnished -- on Tuesday night as the Pacers lost to the mighty Miami Heat on the road, 117-112.
The ending to this one was not only bizarre, it was fairly rare. Allow me set the scene.
With 8.9 seconds left, the Pacers have the ball on a side inbounds play in the frontcourt, trailing by three points, 115-112. The Pacers stacked four players in the middle of the court with guard Dahntay Jones inbounding the ball. Even without strong initial pressure on the ball, Jones couldn't find anyone, and he watched as Pacers forward Mike Dunleavy Jr. fired across the top of the key, as point guard Darren Collison shot into the near corner and as forward Danny Granger came directly to the ball. The only non-shooter on the court for Indiana, big man Jeff Foster, just stood stunned in the paint watching this car wreck unfold.
With all three possible options exhausted, Jones finally threw a bounce pass in to Granger, only to have the referee blow his whistle, signalling for a five second violation.
Man alive. How often do you see a five second violation on a potential game-winning, last second play? Not often.
Credit goes to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who had a small-ball defensive lineup in with guards Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade and a trio of forwards: LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Mike Miller to defend against the obvious three-point attempt. Chalmers didn't initially pressure the ball that hard, but as the clock started ticking he does move up, obscuring Jones' vision. Miller and James simply did their jobs, shadowing their men and not getting hung up on screens. Dwyane Wade probably had the largest role in causing the violation, sticking to Granger like glue, forcing Jones' delay and indecision because he was worried about a Wade steal from behind.
But we shouldn't go overboard in praising Miami. This wasn't a difficult to time catch-and-shoot situation. This was a standard late-game entry pass that the Pacers simply couldn't execute. Get. The. Ball. In. Bounds. They couldn't do it.
Miami cashed in on the mistake as the Pacers were forced to foul immediately and that was the ball game. Take a look at the play. Admire the meltdown.
GO-GO-GADGET LINES OF THE NIGHT:
LeBron James: 41 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists on 15-of-23 shooting in 42 minutes in a Miami Heat home win over the Indiana Pacers.
Blake Griffin might put more people on posters, but nobody dunks in more photographic fashion than LeBron James. Watch out, below. My goodness. Two of his 41 points.
HIGHLIGHT REEL:This is just a Blake Griffin dunk every single day, you know how I do it. Here Griffin catches the alley oop lob pass and dunks over Orlando Magic forward Ryan Anderson, much like he dunked over Kyle Korver recently. Griffin struggled on the night, scoring just 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in 35 minutes of action in a 101-85 loss to Orlando.
WHIMSY:Per Denver Nuggets team policy, Chauncey Billups does not charge baggage handling fees. Boy, he looks cold.
FINAL THOUGHT:I, for one, am glad that Kevin Durant made the three-point contest even if he is the only one of the contestants to shoot below league-average from deep. Given his competitive desire, overall talent level and ability to rise to the occasion, Durant not only makes a great candidate, he serves as an excellent foil for the field. He gets to take on a Larry Bird role here, the intimidating all-NBA gunner who the specialists can try to take down. I love it. What better script is there for a three-point contest?
Posted on: January 31, 2011 10:53 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2011 11:47 pm
Pacers win first game under Frank Vogel, show signs of legitimate life against terrible Raps team.
Posted by Matt Moore
Sometimes, a change can do wonders. In their first game after Jim O'Brien was fired, the Pacers looked wholly different than they have for the past two months. Much of that is attributable to playing the Raptors, who are truly terrible. But there were a series of positive signs that under Frank Vogel, things might improve for the Pacers.
First and foremost was Roy Hibbert. Hibbert looked like an All-Star candidate early this season, then tailed off to the point that he as consulting a sports psychologist . Hibbert's regression had been a focal point of the scrutiny on O'Brien. For a night, at least, progress seemed to have been made. Hibbert went off for 24 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks against the Raptors' puny interior defense. It wasn't just a good night against a bad team, though. Hibbert seemed to respond to Vogel's encouragement. The result was more and more focus from Hibbert, who looked to have new life. And he wasn't the only one.
Tyler Hansbrough apparently unleashed a "rant" about O'Brien after the game, following his 14-point, 6-rebound performance in just 15 minutes. Rookie Paul George had 16 points, when his season average is only 7. More importantly, the team won. Even with Danny Granger having a tough night, and the opposition so bad (the Raptors have lost 12 straight), there was enough to feel good about this win for Pacers fans, just as a monster ice storm settled into the area, keeping attendance to just over 10,000 officially and far less unofficially. The effort was there, a spark was there, and sometimes that's more important than precision, system, or cohesion, all of which are areas the Pacers still need help with.
Getting started on the right foot is important in a situation like that. Indiana's just two games out of the seventh seed in the East, and has the talent to get there. Maybe a move towards a younger coach is just what they needed. It's just one game and things could fall apart just as quickly, but at least for a night, the Pacers looked to have new life under the new coach.