May 20, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) goes up for a dunk against the Indiana Pacers in game four of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Miami defeated Indiana 101-93. Mandatory credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE
With the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers tied up 2-2 heading into Game 5, several factors have come into play to determine the winner of each game. The rebounding advantage has been a big factor for the winner in addition to foul trouble for the Pacers. Another area to keep an eye on is Indiana's transition defense.
Miami stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade may have to pick their spots more now than they did in their younger days but they can still flat out embarrass opponents in the open court. When they gather steam in transition, everyone in the building moves toward the edge of their seat in anticipation of something that will end up with one of them staring down the rim while finishing the break with authority. The play is still only good for two points, just like a simple layup, but the ferocity and disregard for anything trying to derail what appears to be a runaway train in transition can be downright demoralizing.
So limiting those opportunities for the Heat to get out in the open floor and build up that head of steam is one of the things the Pacers have to key on, as they did in their two wins in the series. They simply have to continue to get back to try to slow down the Heat with no concerns about looking silly trying their best to slow down that train.
Now it helps if the Pacers make more shots and control the glass. Long rebounds lead to fast breaks and for the Heat that turns into fast points. According to mysynergysports.com, the Heat made nearly 60% of their shots in transition during the regular season and scored 1.13 points per possession, which is pretty average on paper (for comparison's sake, the Pacers shot a little worse on fewer attempts during the season, but scored 1.15 ppp in transition), but again, they don't include the numbers for will-killing momentum swings.
In their Game 1 win, the Heat outrebounded the Pacers 45 to 38 and scored 1.1 points per possession in transition. In their Game 4 win, the Heat outrebounded the Pacers 47 to 38 while scoring 1.33 ppp in transition. Now let's compare that to the Pacers' wins in Game 2 and 3. In Game 2, the Pacers won the rebound battle 50 to 40 while limiting the Heat to 0.71 ppp in transition. Much of the same in Game 3 as the Pacers held the edge on the glass 52 to 36 with the Heat again scoring just 0.71 ppp in transition.
In Game 3 in particular, the Pacers did a good job of disrupting Miami's transition opportunities and in doing so in a raucous Bankers Life Fieldhouse, not only prevented the points but threw some of that demoralizing momentum back in the Heat's face. Here's a clip of a few key plays from Game 3 (yes, Game 3 not 2) which show the type of effort the Pacers must maintain in transition defense for the rest of the series.