There was a real possibility that the Indiana Pacers would struggle to produce enough on the offensive end of the floor in the playoffs.
A lot of factors go into a team managing to score only 74 points after a full 48 minutes and that's even more so the case when a team scores only eight points in a quarter as was the case in the Pacers' Game 1 loss to the Celtics. There were plenty of regular shots that simply did not fall and that's what the Pacers believe, too.
Nathan Walker of BBStats posted a statistical model that showed that the Pacers are expected to have the most improvement in their shooting efficiency among all teams in the NBA playoffs. They shot 12 percent worse from the field than expected based on the typical player efficiency and quality of the shot attempts that they took.
The Pacers ended up shooting a horrific 8-of-40 (20 percent) on their jump-shot attempts within the half-court in Game 1. It didn't matter whether the shots were set catch-and-shoot attempts or were off the dribble, almost nothing worked. It is incredibly unlikely that they will shoot that poorly again.
The two most heavily utilized players within the Pacers' offense in Game 1 were Tyreke Evans and Darren Collison. Both players are going to have to execute better on their shot attempts as they combined for 14 points on 6-of-22 (27.2 percent) shooting from the field.
Collison simply has to execute on his jump shots because he is not going to get to the rim often, especially as an initiator against a set defense. He has been reliable in catch-and-shoot situations and as an off-the-dribble shooter and having that go away hurts Indiana a lot.
With only two exceptions, Collison frequently had attempted jump shots within a rhythm that he consistently makes. He ended up going 1-of-9 (11.1 percent) on all shot attempts outside of the paint. Boston is using drop coverage and giving up attempts to a usually highly efficient jump shooter.
It is crucial that Evans is a reliable jump shooter in the playoffs because he was the league's worst medium volume finisher around the basket within the half-court during the regular season. While he shot 2-of-5 (40 percent) from the paint, that's actually better than usual for him.
Evans had issues with his jump shooting efficiency as as he ended up going 1-of-3 (33.3 percent) from deep and missed both of his mid-range attempts. His lone make was a catch-and-shoot attempt that came against a breakdown in the Celtics' defense, leaving him wide open. Indiana needs excellence from him on these attempts.
Another focal point that struggled significantly was Domantas Sabonis. Boston was prepared to match his physicality, pressure his left hand in the post, and make him face crowds in the paint. Their strategy neutralized him as a playmaking threat and that's a problem for someone who leads a team in touches per game.
Boston tried sagging off Sabonis to keep a body between him and the rim to force jump shots. It worked because he ended up going 1-of-3 (33.3 percent) on these attempts with the lone make being a likely unintentional bank shot.
Sabonis was only able to score inside twice and did so on a cut and on a putback. He is going to have to identify when the opposing team is sending additional pressure his way and dish the ball to the open man. His matchups aren't going to be the typical undersized backup center that he normally faces.
It did not help the Pacers that veteran role players who typically knock down shots like Doug McDermott and Wesley Matthews were not converting. McDermott missed all five of his shots from deep while Matthews went 2-of-7 (28.6 percent) on jump shots. Boston was very effective at pressuring McDermott, but Matthews got open a few times.
There were failures in Indiana's approach that Boston caused with effective strategy and changes are needed. With Victor Oladipo sidelined, the primary focus of the Celtics' defense was to neutralize Bojan Bogdanovic. They were successful as he was contained to just 12 points on 4-of-11 (36.4 percent) shooting from the field.
Indiana wasn't prepared with a counter for how Boston was guarding Bogdanovic and he didn't move the ball nearly well enough when additional pressure came his way either. It has to start with feeding Myles Turner in pick-and-pop and spot-up situations.
If Bogdanovic shows the Celtics' defense that he is not going to have tunnel vision when running the pick-and-roll, they will likely be more willing to stay attached to Turner. As a result, there would be more favorable driving lanes for Bogdanovic when dribbling off screens
It wasn't often that Turner was utilized within the flow of Indiana's half-court offense. Some good things did happen when they did pass him the ball in the pick-and-pop even when it was from mid-range. With how Boston is dropping its big men and pressuring the ball, playing through him would alleviate pressure.
Since it is likely that the approach will not change, Bogdanovic is going to have to execute when he calls his own number. He went 0-of-4 (0 percent) on shot attempts outside of the paint and that's a real problem for a jump shooter that lacks explosiveness.
Boston was quite effective at containing Bogdanovic's ability to create perimeter jumpers when running off screens. The Celtics also capitalized on Indiana's lack of interior floor spacing and his lack of explosiveness when Turner was not on the floor.
Bogdanovic's only non-transition makes near the basket started with him moving off the ball and were made possible by Turner's spacing. This is why it's so important that Bogdanovic actually passes to Turner because the floor could really narrow for him if not.
Turner ended up being the least utilized member of the team's rotation in Game 1 and that needs to change. He didn't shoot the ball well as he went 1-of-5 (20 percent) on jumpers, but the defense respecting him as a floor spacer is one of their few available methods of opening up the lane for other players.
There were a variety of plays when their young stretch-five could have gotten the ball for a catch-and-shoot jumper. These are possessions that often ended in bad shot attempts because Boston was sending additional pressure to the paint and leaving Turner on purpose.
Understanding that it is beneficial to pass the ball to Turner for jump shots because it makes future possessions easier is crucial. The greatest example was when Collison was able to drive to the basket for his only finish in the paint within the half-court.
Before the Pacers go all out with Turner's jumper, it is important that they fix him popping to mid-range instead of staying behind the 3-point line against drop coverage. Staying behind the perimeter could create much cleaner attempts that are more efficient in nature as opposed to a contested mid-range attempt.
Indiana would be able to benefit from Turner's ability to drive to the basket from the perimeter if he manages to space from beyond the arc and actually receives the basketball. For a team that doesn't have reliable lane penetration threats, this should be a priority.
The interior has become quite clogged when Turner and Sabonis share the floor together. While there are plenty of adjustments that could be made, it would likely be better to just downsize the unit and use Bogdanovic as a small-ball power forward more.
Indiana did use Bogdanovic at the power forward spot with Turner at center for a small portion of Game 1. There was one play in particular that stood out when Turner was able to roll to the basket cleanly and that doesn't happen often due to their regular personnel.
Boston is not a favorable matchup for Sabonis and if he is struggling to produce offensively, going with a small-ball group is the way to go. Choosing to value floor spacing to open up the floor for guards that typically struggle to get to the rim seems like the best option
The only player who truly put together a positive offensive performance was Cory Joseph. He ended the night with 14 points while going 5-of-9 (55.6 percent) from the field with a pair of made free throws and no turnovers.
The Pacers will need their key contributors to come prepared and the coaching staff will need to make the necessary adjustments in Game 2. If not, they will head home facing an 0-2 series deficit and they have never come back from one in their franchise's history.