The last couple of playoff spots are still up in the air both in the west and in the east. I was watching closely the race for 8th between the Hawks and the Pacers. The Hawks were playing the Knicks so that was almost an automatic win. The Pacers however, were up against a solid 76ers team and for the Pacers, the game really was "a must win" as the cliche goes.

Anyways, I wrote about the Pacers pack line defense earlier in the year. What I saw from the Pacers tonight was a team that had really grasped the concepts of the pack including help-side defense and protecting the basket at all costs. Another important concept that was lacking earlier in the year, was the propensity to take charges which the Pacers are now doing. Watch a couple of sequences from the first half,

Help-side Defense:

When you play a pack line or even an on-the-line/up-the-line M2M defense, one of the most critical aspects is help-side. Now, what happens here is off the PNR, the Pacers run a soft show. This means that the help-side underneath must rotate to protect against rotation. That is exactly what happens here to prevent the dunk,

Taking the Charge:

When your all packed in like the way the Pacers play defense, you must step up to take the charge on teams that insist on dribble penetration. Otherwise they will score and/or pick up fouls on your defense. Jeff Foster anticipates the drives, steps down and takes the contact from Iguodola,

I've said before, I think the charge is the most under-rated play in basketball. What other basketball play stops the other team, result in a change of possession for you, and penalizes the opposing team with a personal foul?


The Hawks will probably end up with that 8th and final spot. Even if the Pacers make it in, I'm not convinced that they have the players to run this defense successfully against a great shooting team like Boston or Detroit. There's a lot of pressure on Larry Bird now to turn the Pacers around. Especially now that he's the main man, but that's the way he likes it, with everything on the line.

For a brand new video, check out Bob Huggins' DVD on M2M drills. Coach Huggins' Bearcats teams were always known for their incredible defensive intensity. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.