Tying Up the Loose Ends
by Mark Montieth | email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pacers' 103-102 overtime loss to Miami was one of the most complicated, confounding and dramatic playoff games in franchise history. Here are 10 takeaways to tie up some of the endless loose ends.
1. Paul George is perhaps the most intriguing player the Pacers have ever had. He's good enough to score 27 points, including all the crucial ones at the end, while trying to defend the world's best player. And he has so much room for improvement. His shot needs refinement, his decision-making sometimes belies his age, and he certainly needs to pass and dribble better. But he's mature enough to make you believe he'll continue improving for years to come. His ceiling is unpredictable, but is way up there somewhere. Whenever you get frustrated by one of his shortcomings, take a deep breath and remind yourself that he's barely 23 years old.
2. The Pacers will go only as far as their backcourt will take them this season. While George, David West and Roy Hibbert combined for 72 points on 27-of-51 shooting, guards George Hill and Lance Stephenson scored 12 points on 4-of-19 shooting. They missed all seven of their three-pointers, total, and had 10 assists and seven turnovers. Hill's backcourt giveaway to Dwyane Wade to start the second half got the Heat started on a 6-0 run that gave it the lead. The Pacers recovered, but would have been much better off without that ugly start. Stephenson does not play nearly as well on the road as at home -- not uncommon for a 22-year old, but something to overcome quickly, if the Pacers are to get by the Heat.
3. Coach Frank Vogel's decision to put Sam Young in the game for Roy Hibbert on Miami's final two possessions in overtime was questionable on two counts. One, the obvious issue of Hibbert not being in the game to defend LeBron James' layups, but also the questionable use of Young. He can be an effective player, as he showed when the Pacers closed out New York last Saturday, but does not seem the type of guy who can make spot contributions. He needs time to get into the flow of a game.
4. Bench play will be a dicey issue the rest of the way. Each one of the rotation players has proved he can contribute, but D.J. Augustin is the only one who has approached consistency in the postseason. Ian Manhimi started the season well, but seems to have lost confidence. He plays too fast, and misses too many easy shots – such as the layup off his own rebound with 9 ½ minutes left in regulation, when the Pacers were leading by two points.
5. Miami's starting point guard, Mario Chalmers, played 6 ½ minutes in the third quarter and then left for good with a sore left shoulder. There was no word on his prognosis, but his absence would be a good thing for the Pacers. Miami's backup point guard, Norris Cole, has been effective lately, but is not dependable in playoff games such as these. If Cole has to start, the Heat have no legit point guard to back him up.
6. Even in their loss, the Pacers reiterated their superiority around the basket. They outrebounded Miami 43-38, and it would have been worse if not for the majesty of King James, who had 10. Chris Bosh is a center in name only, and had just two rebounds. Power forward Udonis Haslem, a shadow of his former self, had seven rebounds, but hit only 1-of-7 shots. The Pacers will need to try to continue to exploit that advantage as often as possible.
7. David West was the Pacers' best player against the Heat during the regular season, and was again on Wednesday until George took over late in the game. West finished with 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting, and kept the Pacers in the lead in the first half with 18 points in 17 minutes, 12 seconds. He had nothing left in overtime, however, missing two free throws to start the period and field goal attempts later on.
8. The Pacers were perhaps the NBA's best defensive team during the regular season, but might need to be a little less aggressive in this series. Miami took advantage of their ball pressure to get to the basket consistently, and wound up scoring 60 points in the paint as a result. The Heat hit just 5-of-18 three-pointers, but still shot 48 percent overall because all the easy shots it got off penetration. Seems the Pacers might be wise to let them fire away from the perimeter and see what happens.
9. Tyler Hansbrough had his first effective game since Game 1 of the series with New York, scoring 10 points and grabbing six rebounds in 12 ½ minutes. He and Miami's equally wound-up reserve power forward, Chris Andersen (who scored 16 points while hitting all seven shots) should be well-acquainted by the end of the series.
10. The immediate impression following this game was that the Pacers were not overly distraught about their missed opportunity. They gave the impression, in fact, of believing they're better than the Heat. They've failed to play well in comfort zones this season, but also bounced back well from disappointments. This was a major disappointment, and will require a major bounce-back, but their laid-back nature and Vogel's unrelenting optimism should be an asset on Friday.