"Decent" Performance Not Good Enough Against Miami
Miami – May 14, 2012
Run down the checklist of things the Pacers need to do to beat the Heat, and you'll see why Game 1 was lost. You'll also see why Game 2, and maybe even the series, can be won.
Dominate the post
David West and Roy Hibbert combined for 34 points, 23 rebounds, five assists and 50 percent shooting. Throw Tyler Hansbrough and Lou Amundson into the mix and the total rises to 42 points and 28 boards. But before you ink a big, bold check-mark into this column, consider: even with Chris Bosh going out at the end of the first half, Miami's frontcourt players combined for 28 points and 20 rebounds. Given the way the Heat is choosing to defend the perimeter, the Pacers can't win this a little; they must absolutely dominate.
Win The Intangibles
For the first time in the postseason, the Pacers lost the battles in rebounding (45-38), points in the paint (52-40) and fast-break points (18-12). The Heat nearly doubled them on the offensive glass (15-8). No check here.
Keep James and Wade From Going Off
I'm just going to quote Darren Collison on this one: "Those guys are going to score. It’s how they score. It’s how we make it tough for them. Are they scoring on the line? Are they getting easy layups? I thought they had a mixture of both. We have to stop them in transition. We have to keep them off the line."
Don't Let The Other Guys Beat You
Other than James and Wade, the rest of the Heat combined for just 34 points on 40.6 percent shooting. That's a reasonable figure. Bosh was the only other double-figures scorer, racking up 13 in the first half. But here's the thing: James and Wade outscored the Pacers 42-38 in the second half. James had 16 in the fourth quarter, same as the Indiana team. So perhaps the validity of this particular category should fall into question. Even so, check.
Lean on the bench
For the third straight game, the Pacers won the second unit scoring battle, 29-15 as Collison again played well (10 points, six assists), Leandro Barbosa chipped in nine and Hansbrough had a solid game. If Bosh is out for an extended period of time, Miami's bench will thin even more and this could become a bigger factor. Check.
Win from the perimeter
Theoretically, the Pacers have a much better shooting team, and with both West and Hibbert going well, that should open up things on the outside. Except it didn't. Miami's perimeter defenders largely stayed home, the Pacers couldn't get good looks from long range and shot 4 of 17. For the postseason, Indiana is at 30.6 percent. The law of averages has to catch up to this team sometime, right?
In six key categories, you have just two check marks.
Yet the Pacers, despite playing well beneath their capabilities -- a performance even the hyper-positive Frank Vogel categorized as "decent" -- despite three starters having off nights (Granger, Paul George and George Hill combined for just 23 points on 6 of 25 shooting overall, 4 of 14 from the arc), were in position to win, down just one with less than five minutes remaining.
"We thought we were right there but today was their game," Roy Hibbert said. "But we're not going away. They're not going to walk all over us. We're going to keep fighting and playing tough. … We're not here just to play. We need to win Game 2, come back strong. This one hurts because we have the capability to beat these guys."
Hibbert had it right. Rather than being dejected, or feeling like they were somehow victimized by circumstances beyond their control, the Pacers should simply look in the mirror, accept responsibility for the loss, correct their mistakes—like those soft crosscourt lobs out of double-teams that turn into Miami dunks—and move on.
There is much left to gain. They can still win one in Miami and if Bosh is indeed out for the rest of the series, the opportunity to advance is enhanced.
"It's a long playoff," Leandro Barbosa said, "and this is just the first game."
They still can win Game 2, and the series, but must take care of two new items on the checklist.
Executing down the stretch has been a big problem. They gave away Game 1 against Orlando and very nearly gave away Game 4, blowing a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter before rallying to win in overtime. They didn't give Game 1 to the Heat, but what they did not do was take it when it was there to be had.
Don't Become Distracted
When Vogel brought up the whole flopping thing before the series started, he may have inadvertently created an unnecessary distraction by making the officials an issue. There are questionable calls in every game. The teams that advance in the postseason are mentally tough, focused groups that do not allow such things to distract them.