Pacers New Pack Style Defense

Still a little in holiday mode so I caught only the first half of the game between the Indiana Pacers the the Atlanta Hawks. I purposely wanted to watch what the Pacers were doing on defense. New head coach Jim O'Brien was brought in and turned up the tempo on offense, the Pacers push at every opportunity, as they say, shoot first ask questions later. But I was really much more intrigued by their defense. Harter and O'Brien go way back in their old days with the Pacers, Knicks, Celtics and 76ers, you can read all about it here. Harter was part of those Detroit "bad boy" days with Lambier and Rodman, under Riley with the Knicks, then under O'Brien with the Celtics and 76ers. He is known for being a defensive guru and I wanted to find out more.

What really piqued my interest was the fact that the Pacers are 3rd in the league at opponent FG% at 43.9%, yet they allow a shocking 104.1 ppg, good for 5th worst in the league. They are also the worst team in the league in opponent FTs attempted with 31.8. Clearly, the Pacers are still a work in progress defensively, especially compared to the strides they've made offensively, but I was able to take some clips that show some of what the new defense looks like. In many ways, it is very much a packline type defense, they protect the paint at all costs, rebound everything, and only allow post players to take perimeter shots. Watch the video and read my thoughts below,

One of the things about playing a packline type defense is that against aggressive teams you will foul more often and you will also give up open perimeter shots. The Pacers are one of the worst teams in both opponent FTs attempted and opponent 3-point percentage. But as they get more used to the system, they will improve by taking charges and knowing which shooters they need to closeout. Part of what has made the system so successful in the past was having a great weak-side shot blocker, like Tony Battie in Boston and Samuel Dalembert in Philly. Jermaine O'Neal could be that player for the Pacers, but he likes to stay out of foul trouble for his offensive output.

5-on-4 Shell Drill:

Shell drills are extremely important because they allow you to replicate what your defense will look and act like in the half-court. You will design your shell based on what kind of half-court defense you are running. Here, the emphasis will be on M2M packline style. So help-side principles with the high and low-side 'I'. 5-on-4 is good because it really emphasizes the help-side concept being 1 man short.

Ball at the top, there should be pressure on the ball, with defenders on the wing. There should a low-side defender ready to help on penetration from the top.

Ball passed to the wing, emphasize jumping to the ball while in the air, not on the catch but in the air, very much like zone defense principles. Pressure on the ball, don't forget to form the 'I'.

Again, jump to the ball on the skip pass to the corner. Everyone shifts together from one side to the other side on the skip. X4 must sprint and closeout properly, make sure they do this properly.

Lastly, on penetration from the wing, everyone must collapse and help. Have the offense shoot the ball and make sure all defenders rebound.

The definitive guide to packline defensive principles is Dick Bennett's DVD on the packline defense. As always, be sure to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to discuss this and more of your favorite basketball topics.