L.A. Clippers at Indiana Pacers
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
February 28, 2013
4:00 p.m. PST
FOX Prime Ticket
The Pacers are probably the best defensive team in the Eastern Conference – if not the best defensive team in the entire league. Their defensive efficiency leads the NBA and anchor Roy Hibbert is a main reason for that. But because Hibbert was part of that brawl against the Warriors on Tuesday night, he won’t be participating in Thursday’s contest against the Clippers. That’s good news for L.A. Now onto 3-on-3:
1. Who is the most important player on Indiana?
Patrick James, (@patrickmjames): It’s nobody, because it’s everyone. There was a time not so long ago when Danny Granger was their star-in-the-making. Today, when the Pacers are at their most lethal – the only team in the East with a shot to threaten Miami – Granger is largely a non-factor. Paul George is their best player, but even he’s secondary to the collective defensive system.
Jeremy Conlin, (@jeremy_conlin): The common consensus might be Paul George – he does manage to keep Indiana’s offense afloat by himself at times. However, Indiana’s offensive efficiency ranks just 21st in the league, so does he really make much of a difference? Roy Hibbert is the guy that’s anchoring their No. 1 ranked defense. George might be the better player, but Hibbert is more valuable.
Seerat Sohi, (@DamianTrillard): It’s between Roy Hibbert and Paul George. George is their all-star scorer, their closer – all those buzzwords. But Hibbert is the anchor of the best defense in the league, the reason they’re so dangerous. This would be a no-brainer, but the beauty of the Pacers’ defense is in the system. The players are puppets hanging by strings masterfully orchestrated by Frank Vogel. Nevertheless, Hibbert gets the nod.
2. How does Roy Hibbert’s suspension change the way the Clippers can attack the Pacers?
James: It doesn’t. The league’s best D also boasts the best rebound percentage and second most total boards. Hibbert’s 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes is part of that, so there’s an opportunity for L.A. And without him Indiana loses some rim protection, but their wings are so great at disrupting passing lanes that it’ll still be tough to get to the rim in the first place.
Conlin: Without Hibbert in the game, Ian Mahimni will be thrust into a starting role. Mahimni is a pretty solid defensive player himself – while he doesn’t have Hibbert’s size, he’s quicker on his feet and can cover more ground in screen-roll coverage. The Clippers’ advantage will come in the second unit, where Mahimni’s rim protection won’t be replicated by Jeff Pendergraph.
Sohi: Well, Ian Mahinmi can hold his own on defense. He allows just 0.78 ppp on defense, 53rd in the league according to Synergy Stats. Jeff Pendergraph, the next guy up, hasn’t gotten much burn this year. Chances are the Clippers’ bench will be able to exploit his inexperience, especially since he isn’t as integrated in Vogel’s system as Hibbert and Mahinmi are.
3. Who’s the better dunker: Blake Griffin or Gerald Green?
James: Blake, because in-game dunks are the only dunks that matter. (Why? Consider a 45-percent free-throw shooter who “makes nearly 90 percent in practice.” Dude’s not good at free throws.) Like Green, Blake can flirt with through-the-legs frivolity in warm-ups. But, Griffin’s ability to absorb/avoid contact while throwing down from ungodly heights is objectively more impressive than anything with cupcakes.
Conlin: If we’re talking exhibitions, I’m taking Green. He’s more creative – his between-the-legs dunk without shoes in 2008 was one of the most underrated dunks ever. In games, though? Easily Griffin. Griffin is the best in-game dunker in the league, perhaps the best since Dominique. Nobody unleashes more dunks in traffic than Griffin does, and his come with particular flair.
Sohi: As far as in-game dunking goes, Blake easily takes the cake. He’s probably the most exciting live action dunker in the league. When it comes to the dunk contest though, it’s Gerald Green and I don’t really think it’s close. His creativity gives him a definite edge.