Begins with Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, in the team's final meeting last year in Indianapolis, the two were unstoppable playing off of each other. Lopez had 14 points in the first 9 minutes with the Nets shooting 75% over the time period. The Pacers made a run with their second unit to close to within 41-38 but once Brook and Deron came back on the floor, it became ugly really quick. The half ended with our highest output in a half in the entire season to that point (69 points to the Pacers' 50 points). The rebounding was decisively in our favor as well. Note these are the strengths of the Pacers (defense and rebounding). So what caused all of that? Deron Williams' ability to exploit George Hill and his lack of strength. The Pacers had to commit extra attention to Williams to slow him down. Hibbert is the guy they normally count on for help defense and it put him out of position quite a bit. That creates the lanes for guys like Lopez and Johnson to exploit. Anything that forces Hibbert out of the paint helps your team's chances, and he had to guard Lopez on the perimeter. That also created rebounding angles for Evans to exploit.
The Nets struggled a little bit in the first meeting last year but ended it with 28-11 4th quarter with Deron finishing at 22 and 9 assists. The second meeting featured CJ Watson and Tyshawn Taylor at point guard and the Nets won behind a big effort from Evans and the frontline. In the first two matchups the Nets got to the line 33 more times than the Pacers as well. Williams scored 55 points in his two matchups against them.
The bad news for the Pacers is that their forward acquisitions play defense like Gerald Green (a primary reason he had trouble finding time last year to work out his confidence). I enjoyed watching Scola get abused in Phoenix and benched within 2 minutes in the second half trying to guard Lopez. With David West, especially if he stays healthy, it could be tough for Scola to get many minutes. Copeland is largely insurance for Granger, and shouldn't see much time with the much improved Stephenson and the breakout by George. Watson adds some badly needed outside shooting for them. For the most part the improvement for them will largely be internal through the return of Granger and continued development from their young guys. They lose Tyler and some tenacity on the interior that has been their trademark. All in all they give up a little defense, return to average from near the bottom offensively. Make no mistake it was their frontline and their tenacity that was responsible for the playoff run. That is the category where they lose a little bit.