Notebook: West Gets Called Out—to Guard Bosh
by Mark Montieth | firstname.lastname@example.org
May 22, 2013, 3:39 PM
Editor's Note: Have a Pacers-related question for Mark? Want to be featured in his mailbag column? Send your questions to Mark on twitter at @MarkMontieth or by email at email@example.com.
Frank Vogel tried to keep it under wraps. But his smile—and David West's blunt acknowledgment—made it clear how the Pacers will defend Chris Bosh tonight when they open the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat.
West will get the assignment most of the time, with some help from backup Tyler Hansbrough and center Roy Hibbert. Bosh is Miami's center, but is an effective scorer on the perimeter who would pull Hibbert, the Pacers' best paint defender, too far from the basket.
The matchup on Bosh appears to be as crucial as any in the series. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are virtually unstoppable when they're playing at peak levels, but Bosh is something of an X-factor. He averaged 16.6 points on 54 percent shooting during the regular season, and is averaging 13.2 points in the playoffs, second-best for the Heat. The best indication of the 6-11 Bosh's ability to score on the perimeter is that he has hit 7-of-15 three-pointers in the postseason.
"He shoots a ridiculous percent from the long two," Vogel said following the Pacers' shootaround at American Airlines Arena on Wednesday. "He creates a real challenge for Roy to protect the rim and be able to guard the perimeter game."
Asked why he wouldn't have West defend Bosh, Vogel smiled and said, "We will, some."
And then added: "Mostly."
West is a couple of inches shorter than Bosh, and not as mobile, but didn't seem fazed by the challenge.
"(Against) New York I was guarding point guards and two guards," he said. "So I'll be able to handle Chris Bosh on the perimeter."
Bosh's ability to pull a Pacers frontline defender away from the basket, regardless of who it is, creates opportunities for Miami's offense. Bosh might have the quickness to beat his man off the dribble, and then get to the basket for a layup or pass to a teammate for an open three-pointer. Spacing the court is a priority for every team, and Bosh, more than anyone, does that for the Heat.
"When he's shooting 55 percent you don't want to live on (giving up) long twos," Vogel said. "What it creates more than anything is the long closeout, which burns you more than him shooting it. You're running at him and you leave your feet and now he's getting to the rim and everybody else is at the three-point line. It's very, very challenging to guard and a big reason why they're a hundred-for-a-hundred or whatever their record is in the last 100 games."
Actually, the Heat have won 45 of their past 48 games, but the point is the same.
George ready this time
Paul George credits the Heat for him winning the Most Improved Player award this season, and would like to repay them by showing off his improvement in this series.
George wasn't ready for Miami last season when the two teams met in the Eastern Conference finals. Although he played solid defense, he averaged just 10 points on 36 percent shooting. That was only a couple of points under his regular season average, but provided him with all the evidence he needed that he had to get better.
"I really worked hard on improving (in the off-season), just because I wasn't satisfied with how I performed in that series," George said.
"I have to have that mindset to keep going on, to keep attacking," he said. "Those are things I didn't do last year. Being in the role and position I'm in now, I know what it takes."
George was an effective defender on Atlanta's Josh Smith and New York's Carmelo Anthony in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but faces his biggest challenge with LeBron James of the Heat. James, the reigning league Most Valuable Player and nine-time All-Star, is the most powerful individual force in basketball, although the Pacers have generally defended him well. He scored 22, 28 and 13 points in three games against the Pacers during the regular season.
For the Pacers, containing James includes limiting turnovers, which James can turn into instant baskets, and preventing him from having straight lines to the basket with team defense.
George will get backup support from Sam Young, who was signed over the summer with James in mind. The Pacers knew they would bump into Miami if they had the kind of season they anticipated, and would need all the help they can get on James.
"There is no good matchup for LeBron," Vogel said. "Paul George and Sam Young are not good matchups for LeBron, because a good matchup doesn't exist. But those guys are pretty good. If I'm going to have anybody, I'd like to have those two guys."
Hill in uncharted territory
George Hill played three seasons for San Antonio, but they turned out to be the wrong three seasons as far as postseason success. The Spurs lost in the first round once and the second round twice in those years, but never reached the conference finals.
"I wish," he said. "We probably would have won (the title) if we got that far."
Hill didn't experience postseason success even in high school, when he played for Broad Ripple. The Rockets never got out of the sectional during Hill's career there.
"We sucked," Hill said. "I won a scoring title, but that's about it."
Hill will be under pressure in the conference finals to keep turnovers to a minimum. The Heat want to play an uptempo game, and force turnovers that become fastbreak baskets.
Hill, meanwhile, will be trying to turn Miami's pressure into opportunities for his teammates.
"It opens up the floor when you get picked up 94 feet," he said.
Hill will try to keep his finger on the Pacers' pulse throughout the series, making sure everyone maintains the proper focus. He'll draw from the experience of last year's playoff series against the Heat, when the Pacers had a 2-1 lead and a halftime advantage in Game 4 before succumbing and losing in six games.
"We're more mature," he said. "We've been tested. We learned a lesson. One blink can turn the whole definition of the games. We have to play each possession like our last possession. That's what we learned."
Health not a concern
Hill said he's full recovered from the concussion that kept him out of Game 5 of the New York series, and was backed in that opinion from Vogel.
West continues to wrap his right leg after practice and games to treat his strained calf muscle, but said the injury would not limit him in games.
"It's just the circumstance of being an NBA basketball player," he said.
One of the crucial factors of the series could be the health of Dwyane Wade, which has limited him off and on throughout the postseason. Wade sat out 13 games during the regular season, mostly because of injuries to his right knee or right ankle. He averaged 21.2 points then, but has averaged just 13 points in the playoffs.
The Pacers, however, will assume him to be 100 percent tonight.
"I'm not buying into that," West said.