Los Angeles Clippers vs. Indiana Pacers
12:30 p.m. PST
December 1, 2013
FOX Prime Ticket
1. Are the Pacers the best team in the NBA?
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): No. If anything, I think they’re probably the third-best team in the league. The Pacers have played the softest schedule in the league by a decent margin (.402 SOS), yet their average margin of victory is just a tenth of a point better than the Spurs (.13 to be exact), who’ve played a much tougher schedule (.489 SOS). I may be living in the past, but the Spurs and Heat are still a slight notch above Indiana.
Dylan Rice-Leary, (@dylearium): Can’t do it. The Pacers have the best record in the league, they are leading (or close to leading) the league in point differential, defense, blocks, and I’m sure a slew of other things. But Indy’s schedule has been mostly unintimidating thus far this season Ask me again in February. Until then, there is this team in Miami that’s been quite successful in recent years. The Spurs might have and edge or two on the Pacers as well. So I can’t say Indiana is the best team in the L so far, but they are definitely one of the best.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): The Pacers could win it all and it wouldn’t be surprising. But for now, road to the championship still goes through Miami. The Heat have won nine in a row in the midst of LeBron James’ most efficient offensive season, and – oh yeah – they’re the two-time defending champs.
2. Did we learn anything from Jamal Crawford’s 31-point, 11-assist performance against the Kings.
Buha: No. Anyone who’s followed Crawford’s career knows he’s an underrated passer, as he was actually pegged as a point guard coming out of college, and often split time between both guard positions his first few seasons. The only thing we were reminded of is that Crawford can probably run back-up point guard duties in a pinch if Darren Collison continues to struggle.
Rice-Leary: If you are new to Jamal Crawford, the Sacramento game was definitely an education; otherwise, it was more reminder than revelation: Jamal Crawford can be truly exceptional at the game of basketball. He really stepped up in CP3’s absence. The 31 points could almost be expected given Crawford’s additional minutes, but the 11 assists might be even more exciting to Clipper fans.
Katz: That all depends on how much you really know about Jamal Crawford. Crawford has never been a bad passer. He just hasn’t always been a willing one. At times, though, over the past season-plus that we’ve seen him in a Clippers uniform, Crawford has turned himself into a distributor for short stretches. With Chris Paul out Friday, he had that stretch for 48 minutes. That’s something we haven’t seen since he’s joined the Clips.
3. What’s the best way to attack the Pacers’ vaunted defense?
Buha: It sounds counterintuitive given their size and length at every position, but attack the offensive glass relentlessly. In five of the seven games that the Pacers either lost or won by single digits (i.e. opponents that had some type of success against Indiana), the opposition managed to grab 13 or more offensive rebounds, and had nearly 20 more shot attempts than the Pacers. Since it’s almost impossible to consistently break through the cracks of their defense, you need to create as many looks as possible.
Rice-Leary: If you are the Clippers, you unload the arsenal, which is considerable. You keep the Pacers honest inside with your bigs while scoring mid-to-long range with your MVP discussion-worthy point-guard driven offense. You dunk. You drop trey. You hit nifty little floaters from the elbow-ish extended. The Pacers are not a team that can be beaten easily- but the Clippers are capable of scoring from virtually anywhere.
Katz: Chris Paul has to be effective in dribble penetration. The Pacers funnel everything into Roy Hibbert down low, but if Paul can start to hurt the Pacers in an array of different ways (pulling up at the right elbow for those patented fadeaways, driving and dishing if the defense collapses in, getting to the hoop and getting a few foul calls on Hibbert), then the Clips have a chance to render the Pacers’ defense, which is the best in the league, slightly less dominant.