Peltzman’s NBA Playbook: The Pace of the Pacers, Week-Long Win Streaks, IST Group Stage Results

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Graphic. - Multimedia Editor / Drew Peltzman

The Pace of the Pacers

The Indiana Pacers (9-7) are the most interesting team in the NBA through the first month and change of the season. They are tallying up scores thanks to their top-ranked offense and the innate passing ability of Tyrese Haliburton, culminating in a 157-152 victory over the second-ranked offense Atlanta Hawks (8-8) last Tuesday. The over/under for this game, set at 252.5 combined points, was the highest figure for an NBA game in 27 years. And by combining for a whopping 309 points, this game marks the highest-scoring game without overtime since Oct. 30, 2019. The Pacers convert in avalanches, scoring 123 points per 100 possessions, leading the Hawks by four percentage points.

This game amplified Indiana’s potent offense and lowlighted the team’s putrid defense. They are allowing opponents to shoot three percentage points better than the same players are shooting on average for the season. This was evident in Monday’s 114-110 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers (5-12), as they struggled mightily defending at the point of attack and in pick-and-roll actions. They surrendered 34 points to Jerami Grant, who only missed six shots. The point total for Malcolm Brogdon and DeAndre Ayton was 24 and 22 respectively, combining to make 18 of 33 shot attempts through the porous Pacers defense. They are one fun team to watch for fans of offense, but coaches, current and former, I advise you to proceed with caution.

Week-Long Win Streaks

Phoenix Suns (11-6): For a team that has yet to see Bradley Beal and Devin Booker on the court at the same time, a seven-game win streak displays how dangerous Phoenix can be if they ever get healthy, yet also how dangerous they can be when not at full strength. Booker, who hit a game-winning three against the Knicks on Sunday, is averaging 29 points per game during this streak connecting on 39% of shots from deep. He has also taken control of the team’s point guard duties in the absence of the departed Chris Paul, averaging 8.4 assists to 2.4 turnovers. In his five games during the win streak, 35-year-old Kevin Durant is averaging 34 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists per game. Eric Gordon has been a massive addition to the Suns, providing spacing and shooting for a team with ball-dominant stars.

Orlando Magic (12-5): Seven wins in a row have propelled the Magic to the second seed in the Eastern Conference, yet they do not have a player currently averaging over 20 points per game. So how have they done it? They are ranked second in steals and free throw attempts per game, playing into a more defensive and physical approach that leans into the roster’s strength with a heavy concentration of athletic wings (Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Jonathan Isaac) and improved shooting from their guards (Cole Anthony, Anthony Black, Jalen Suggs). It has been 13 years since the Magic have won a playoff series, and it looks like they finally have the bunch to do it. I believe ever since the trade with the Chicago Bulls that exchanged Nikola Vucevic for Wendell Carter Jr. and two first-round picks (which have conveyed as Franz Wagner and Jett Howard) the Magic felt that they finally had some good fortune on their side. Let’s see how long they can stay hot.

In-Season Tournament Standings

The first stage of the tournament, group play, ended on Tuesday. The winners of each group and one wild card team per conference will contend in the first-ever In-Season Tournament bracket beginning Monday, Dec. 4. See the eight teams that are advancing to the knockout round below:

Boston Celtics vs. Indiana Pacers – 7:30 p.m. EST | Dec. 4

In their only meeting so far this season, the Celtics went wire to wire in a 41-point victory over the Pacers in Boston. Indiana will have the talents of Tyrese Haliburton for this matchup, as he missed the aforementioned battle due to a right ankle sprain earlier this month. Playing at home could play into the Pacers’ advantage, as they rebound and force turnovers at a higher rate on their homecourt than on the road. The Pacers have yet to lose an In-Season Tournament game, while the Celtics dropped a game to the Orlando Magic.

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Sacramento Kings – 10:00 p.m. EST | Dec. 4

Following an electric win against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday to clinch their knockout round birth, the vibes are immaculate for the Kings as they set their eyes on the Pelicans. New Orleans, who collected group play wins over the Nuggets, Clippers, and Mavericks will see the talents of C.J. McCollum return for the first time since Nov. 4 after suffering from a collapsed lung. The young cores of both teams should result in one of the more entertaining games of the season.

New York Knicks vs. Milwaukee Bucks – 7:30 p.m. EST | Dec. 5

Led by Jalen Brunson, the Knicks have appeared to return to peak form after beginning the season 3-4, and will face the new-look Bucks on the road. If their first matchup (a 110-105 Bucks victory) is anything to learn from, expect this game to be decided by the Knicks’ defensive strategy on Damian Lillard, and how they can utilize Brunson on offense to take advantage of Lillard when defending in the halfcourt. The Knicks currently have the fifth-ranked defense while the Bucks’ defense has dropped off significantly, going from the fourth-best defensive rating last season to the tenth-worst this season.

Pheonix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers – 10:00 p.m. EST | Dec. 5

The Suns, who have not lost since Nov. 12, will visit the Lakers in the knockout round. To conclude the knockout round, it could possibly be a do-or-die battle between Kevin Durant and LeBron James, that is if Durant can recover from his current foot injury in time. If he does play, this age could be one for the history books, but if not, I see the Lakers taking care of business and ending the Suns chances to host the NBA Cup.

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