How Pacers, Heat succeed on D

Breaking down Miami's and Indiana's defensive talents and philosophies

Updated: December 18, 2013, 12:34 PM ET
By David Thorpe | ESPN Insider

There's a simple reason why evaluating what makes certain defenses work and others fail -- and how individuals perform within a defense -- can make you feel like the answers are locked inside a black box. It's because it's not simple at all.

Defense is an incredibly complex thing. Even for players who have learned under the best and most demanding instructors, or coaches who have read countless books and broken down miles of tape, the complexities reveal themselves slowly and inconsistently.

To illustrate just how complex evaluating defense can be, first take a look at this particular exchange during Monday night's matchup of the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers. It exemplifies just how many moving parts and split-second decisions go into a single offensive action and corresponding defensive set.

Indeed, there are hundreds of variables a team considers when deciding on a strategy, and those variables change from player to player, action to action and game to game. Wednesday night's matchup between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat (7 p.m. ET, ESPN and WatchESPN.com) will illustrate how there is no single way for either team to defend a given offensive action.

However, both Miami and Indiana possess two defensive traits that allow them to be very successful with the particular personnel on their rosters:

1. strong defensive identities
2. one thing each team does better than any other team

Let's break down both Miami's and Indiana's defenses and explain how they are both so successful with very different personnel and philosophies: