1. Pacers defense elite without great length
The Indiana Pacers boast the second-best defensive rating in the NBA, holding opponents to 102.2 points per 100 possessions while holding them to a league-worst 43.6 percent from the floor.
Victor Oladipo is at the center of much of that, an elite perimeter defender who was an All-Defensive first teamer and a third-team All-NBA selection last season while leading the NBA with 2.4 steals per game.
Last season’s Most Improved Player recipient recently missed 11 straight games with a sore right knee, but even as he works to find his rhythm since returning, he’s already victimized the New York Knicks with five steals on Sunday and the Philadelphia 76ers with three since coming back.
The Pacers also have an elite shot-blocker in Myles Turner, who is rejecting a league-leading 2.8 shots per game.
Thaddeus Young, the former Net who is also the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, flexed his defensive muscles recently while helping limit MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks to just six shots and 12 points in 31 minutes in a Dec. 12 victory.
But what Indiana excels at is communication at the defensive end, being in the right place and being there to help teammates when they are in need.
The last time the Brooklyn Nets played the Pacers, they were dismantled by the Indiana defense, committing 20 turnovers, while Oladipo had four steals and Tyreke Evans had three.
Those turnovers led to 30 points for Indiana, a key factor in a 132-112 rout that stands as Brooklyn’s most lopsided loss this season.
Ball movement will be essential for the Nets, because while the Pacers will switch at times, it’s not something they do on every pick. That will reduce the isolation opportunities against bigs that Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell have thrived on at times this season.
Instead, movement of the ball and by players off the ball will be critical if Brooklyn wants to find open shots against a solid fundamental defense.