The Pacers offense relies largely on post-ups, as they make up largest part of the Indiana offense, according to Synergy Sports (18.6% of possessions). As you might have guessed, Roy Hibbert is their go-to player in the post. NBA Playbook detailed Hibbert’s success as a post scorer; he ranks 17th in the NBA in points per post-up possession. However, even the strongest aspects of your offense can be stopped if you don’t have something to counter it. One counter is to cut to the basket and let Hibbert deliver the handoff (the Pacers rank 3rd in the NBA in points per possession on hand-offs, btw). Zach Lowe mentioned how the other Pacers work off of Hibbert’s post game, so I thought some video might help illustrate that.
Hibbert has been effective in the post as a scorer, but he also came into the league as an accomplished passer. We will start off with some cuts that basically amount to a two-man game. As Zach Lowe noted, the Pacers often end up in a triangle set. Here we see Roy Hibbert in the post with Paul George and Darren Collison on the perimeter. Collison makes the entry pass, and we see George’s defender, Marcus Thornton, completely turn his focus to Hibbert. Hibbert’s success in the post warrants extra attention. Unfortunately for Thornton, George recognizes the situation and cuts off Hibbert for a layup.
Here we see the triangle with Hibbert in the post, George on the wing, and Danny Granger in the corner. George cuts through, leaving Granger and Hibbert to work the two-man game. Granger makes the entry pass and Hibbert waits for Granger to set his man up. Granger works nicely off Hibbert’s handoff and ends up with a clear path to the basket.
In the previous two plays we saw the Pacer in the corner cut for a layup while the wing man spaced the floor. In this play, George makes the entry pass from the wing, and goes to set the screen on Collison’s man, Jameer Nelson. Nelson, perhaps anticipating a baseline cut off of Hibbert (as seen above), is caught on his heels. Nelson and Richardson are unprepared to either fight through the screen or make a switch. Hibbert passes to Collison for the easy elbow jumper.
In this play, we see the “X-cut” Zach Lowe talked about. Granger sets up his man to work to the foul line side of HIbbert, while Collison works to the baseline side. This action creates a natural screen and the Celtics are not prepared to recover.
All of this action works because Hibbert is both an effective post scorer and a willing passer. Without both qualities, defenses could either leave Hibbert in one-on-one matchups or ignore cutters and double down on Hibbert.