The Indiana Pacers have been one of the better stories of the NBA this season. At 33-26, they are firmly in the mix for a playoff spot, tied for sixth in the East with the Miami Heat and only a game back on the Philadelphia 76ers for fifth. Their +1.9 net rating ranks 12th in the NBA.

Rick Carlisle's team plays to its strength as a dynamic offensive team. Indiana's 120.6 offensive rating sits second in the entire NBA behind only the Boston Celtics. The Pacers are a very good team. However, they do have a big flaw that could not only drag them into the play-in tournament, but see them lose before the playoffs: defense.

Pacers must improve defensively before postseason

Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle and guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) look on in the second half against the Chicago Bulls at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Trevor Ruszskowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Pacers' defense is an abomination. For as good as they are offensively, they are nearly equally as deficient on the defensive end of the floor. They allow 118.8 points per 100 possessions, which is the fifth-worst mark in the NBA at the moment. The only teams that are worse are the tankalicious Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets as well as the not-tanking Atlanta Hawks, who are just really bad on that end of the floor.

The idea was that Indiana's defense would get better after trading for Pascal Siakam. Sure, trading for Siakam was in large part to take some pressure off Tyrese Haliburton offensively so he doesn't have to create everything, but Siakam should help the Pacers take a step up defensively. Indiana has been better defensively since acquiring Siakam, but not by much. Since January 19th, Siakam's debut with the team, Indiana has posted a defensive rating of 117.4, only a point-and-a-half better than their mark for the entire season.

The Pacers are just short on defense-first players. Haliburton competes on that end of the floor, but with how vital he is to their offense, it is a bit understandable for him to not go all out when Indiana doesn't have the ball. Aaron Nesmith has emerged as their best perimeter defender, but he has been injured recently. He's taken the assignment of defending the opposing team's best player, and has held up on numerous occasions.

Nesmith's 1.1 steals per game and 1.8% steal percentage are solid numbers that show activity off the ball defensively. The Pacers turn these turnovers into quick points on the other end.

But outside of Nesmith and Siakam, the Pacers just don't have the defensive personnel to string together multiple stops. Myles Turner should be an anchor that cleans up possessions, but he hasn't been the same player on that end of the floor this season. Opponents are shooting 60.7% at the rim on shots that Turner has contested, roughly the same territory as Jusuf Nurkic and Jalen Johnson, a wing.

Not all of that is Turner's fault. Indiana's guards and wings haven't been great at navigating screens, affording opponents a free runway to attack Turner at the rim. But Turner has been better in previous seasons and must be for the Pacers to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Indiana can beat anybody with how prolific their offense is. They've beaten the Milwaukee Bucks four(!) times and have multiple wins over the Boston Celtics. It's a large reason as to why and how they made the championship game of the In-Season Tournament. But they also have losses against the likes of the Portland Trail Blazers, Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards.

The Pacers can beat anybody, but they can also lose to anybody. If they want to buck that latter trend as the postseason fast approaches, they have to improve their defense.