I’d like to congratulate the Indiana Pacers on stealing a road playoff game against one of the best home teams in the NBA. It wasn’t pretty by any means and it seemed like both teams were giving the game away throughout the final couple minutes. However, a win is a win in the playoffs and even the poor play by Indiana down the stretch doesn’t change the fact that the series is now evened up at one game apiece.
That’s pretty huge for the Pacers to be heading back to Indiana after stealing homecourt advantage.
Here’s the thing though: The Pacers are in some serious trouble.
The Heat looked completely disjointed on offense while trying to adjust to life without Chris Bosh. Sure they scored 53 points in the second half of Game 1, but last night was a fantastic combination of really good, aggressive defense by the Pacers and utter confusion and a stalemate execution by Miami.
I think the Pacers defense will be fine against the Miami Heat. Paul George seems to have figured out that his length can make up for any physical advantage Dwyane Wade might have over him. Until Dwyane adjusts and figures out that he needs to do his damage away from the ball and heading toward the basket coming off of screens, George should be able to bother him and hope Wade isn’t just making really hard jumpers.
Granger’s effort on LeBron in the second half was great because he seemed to know exactly how to get him to dribble toward the help and take away his driving lanes. We’ve seen a lot in LeBron’s career recently that if he doesn’t have any daylight to dribble into the paint, he seems to get confused on what he should do. He gets complacent with his offensive attack and just relies on bad pull-up jumpers. In the first half of Game 2, he got into the paint and used that floater he’s been perfecting. When the Pacers took away the paint in the second half, he had to rely on a lot of effort plays (offensive rebounds, quick post-ups for position) to get points inside.
The thing I worry about with the Pacers is their offense. It’s extremely basic and it’s going away from everything they’re good at.
Want to know why Danny Granger has been so bad in the first two games? Aside from LeBron James suffocating him like an insecure and overbearing boyfriend that is dating out of his league, the Pacers fail to recognize whenever Granger might actually have an advantage.
On this play in particular, the Pacers have a chance to post Granger on the right block with Mike Miller guarding him. If George makes the pass right away, Turiaf probably dives toward the post to help and it gives Hibbert and his unending length a clear area right at the basket. It looks like LeBron is anticipating a lob pass here but a quick fake reversal pass to David West at his sweet spot probably makes LeBron retreat. Instead George just seems completely lost with the basketball.
When Paul George misses the entry pass right away, it allows Ronny Turiaf to help over from Hibbert and that takes away the pass altogether. The problem I have with this play is it seems like it was designed as misdirection on the post-up to run Granger off of a screen to get him a jumper from 20 feet.
When Granger comes off the screen, LeBron is there in help defense to knock the pass away (he jumps the screen perfectly) and get the Heat a transition score the other way.
It’s really impossible to see why George Hill thought it was a good idea to make this pass. LeBron is right there waiting to switch on the screen.
This steal leads to many people being shocked that Norris Cole can dunk a basketball and me wanting to pull my hair out. They had a post up with Granger on a guy who can’t check him and instead of making the easy post-entry pass or adjusting their play on the fly to use that advantage, they played right into Miami’s hands.
The other thing from Indiana that drove me nuts in this game is how little they seemed to think about pounding the ball inside. Roy Hibbert and David West are monsters in the post. Especially with Bosh’s length sidelined with the lower abdominal strain, the Heat’s options for defending the post are extremely limited.
Roy Hibbert this season was 51st in the NBA in points per possession on post-ups. He scored 0.89 PPP in the post and made 47.6% of his shots. He turned the ball over 11.3% of the time, which really isn’t that bad. David West was 17th in the NBA in post-up PPP with 0.97 and 46% from the field. He turned the ball over only 6.5% of the time and got fouled 11.4% of the time.
Do you know how many times the Pacers posted these guys up in which there was a field goal attempt, turnover or free throw attempt that followed? Seven.
It wasn’t seven times each; it was seven times total and only three times did it happen in the second half. On those three times, David West was the player being posted and he was fouled twice and scored the other time.
The Pacers were the fourth best team in the NBA in PPP in the post this season and they only went to it seven times that led to a scoring situation? How does this work? Granted, the Miami Heat are very good at defending the post. They have LeBron James swooping in like Spiderman to steal passes and the Heat are also very good at fronting the post. The problem is the Paces have Roy Hibbert and is carnival attraction length that can secure any high pass in the post. He’s also an extremely good passer out of the post.
Instead, the Pacers ran 18 isolation plays that led to scoring chances and only scored 11 points on them. They probably struggled scoring against the Heat with isolation plays because Indiana was the second worst team in the NBA this year trying to score in isolation.
I’d love to see them come to Indianapolis for Game 3 and just decide to pound the ball inside. The Heat are thin in the frontcourt already (Dexter Pittman not withstanding) and getting their guys into foul trouble and forcing LeBron to play the 4 and use his battery packs up pushing back against David West could be a huge way to wear him down.
It might get ugly early and you might end up turning the ball over quite a bit as Miami helps on passes and plays the lanes. But you can’t look at this series and these games as a slugging contest. This should be a boxing match between to prizefighters who are trying to wear each other down with body blows. We’ve seen what Miami is doing out there. They’re swinging haymakers all game long, trying to demoralize you into thinking you’re just the victim of another slew of highlights.
The Pacers can’t play that way. They don’t have a haymaker to throw. What they have are hard hooks to the ribcage every time down the floor that can wear Miami down and leave them dead for the fourth quarter. If they can’t score in the fourth and are too tired to even knock down basic free throws and layups (like we saw at the end of the chokefest that was Game 2) then the Pacers can continue to win games in this series.
Based on what we’re seeing from Indiana though, if they can’t adjust to what Miami is doing and change the offense to take advantage of their overt advantages then I just don’t see how Indiana continues to win in this series.
Yes, they stole a game in Miami and they now have homecourt. However, this offense has to become a lot smarter in the way they execute the rest of this series. If the Pacers don’t live in the paint, they won’t live to see the Conference Finals.