Pacers Seek to Improve Rebounding During Road Trip

Grant Afseth

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Indiana Pacers have struggled to win games as of late. In fact, following their 103-95 loss to the Utah Jazz on Sunday, they have on lost five of their previous six games. 

There have been numerous contributing factors in the Pacers' recent struggles. However, one that has seemingly stood out as a consistent trend throughout the season is rebounding. Lately, it has only worsened for Indiana. 

Overall, the Pacers are allowing 14.6 opponent second-chance points per game and that ranks 28th in the NBA. Indiana's production has declined further over this recent six game stretch. In fact, they have given up a league-most 18.8 opponent second-chance points per game during this period. 

After Tuesday's practice, Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren was asked about which particular area he'd like to see his team improve the most during their three-game road trip. He made it clear that rebounding will be a focus. 

"Rebounding and physicality... making sure we are getting a hit and doing the right thing every time a shot goes up," he said. 

There have been numerous factors that have seemingly contributed to the Pacers' rebounding woes. Failing to contain dribble penetration has often caused Indiana to be out of position on the boards. Other times, going with zone defense has left them prone to long rebounds.

One of the adjustments the Pacers have turned to in order to improve their rebounding has been to give Goga Bitadze more minutes. Bjorkgren has liked what he's seen from the second-year big man. 

"Goga has been, in his minutes that he's played, done a good job in [rebounding]," he said. "That's why you've seen me go to him a little bit more. You've seen him finish out a fourth quarter. His minutes have gone from basically zero, to two-to-three minutes, to five, and now he's getting there in the double-digits. 

"He's producing, he's running, he's screening. He's trying to get physical hits out there. He's trying to protect the rim. All of those things are a plus." 

It remains to be seen if the Pacers will be able to turn around their underachievement on the glass. Indiana's upcoming road trip will be a key indicator of what potential adjustments they will make to rectify their shortcomings in this area. 

The Pacers return to action on Wednesday when they take on the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center.