With how sporadic this Pacers team can be, I should've assumed they'd stink it up at American Airlines Arena after they ran Orlando out of their own gym a few nights ago. With the exception of David West and D.J. Augustin, the Pacers played some atrocious basketball. Leading up to this game, I was trying to convince myself the Pacers would somehow pull out a victory against a Miami team on one of the best runs in years, and I saw why I wasn't able to tonight.
Let's get this over with.
West was one of the few bright spots in this game, shooting 7-10 and 10-11 from the charity stripe. Snagging five rebounds and dishing out three assists, West seemed to be the only guy who could get anything going, in the paint, against Bosh and LeBron. He was also a nuisance defensively with four steals.
West has been the only player on this team who's played at a consistently high level for an extended stretch of the season. We've seen spurts of brilliance from guys like Hill and George, however those two have dropped off at times (tonight, for example), and West simply can't win games by himself. Especially against the likes of the Miami Heat.
Free Throw Shooting
I almost didn't include this in the highlights, simply because it's such a fundamental part of basketball. However, I'm trying to keep myself from crying, so I'm going to find every little thing the Pacers did well. Sadly, the tears are already falling. Anyways, the Pacers got to the line more than enough (in a normal game), shooting 29-34. Being one of the only successful facets of their game, they'd have had to get to the line somewhere around 60 times to win. Yeah, not likely.
The Pacers have always been a team that's drawn contact and gotten themselves to the line. I particularly that they were soft tonight, however, the stats speak for themselves. Indiana drawing enough contact to get to the line for 34 free throws against a team like Miami definitely bodes well moving forward.
It's also worth noting that the refs were calling damn near everything. Regardless, that's no reason to take any credit away from Indy.
I know a lot of you get riled up when anyone talks bad about P.G., but this is absolutely unavoidable. He was awful. Just awful. With the exception of the first quarter, George shot almost nothing but contested three's and jump shots. Even though he's upwards of 6'10", he looked afraid to be physical in any way. If the Pacers are going to want to beat Miami in a potential playoff series, their best player can't be afraid to get a little dirty. George got to the line just twice while shooting 2-11 (2-7 from long range) to go along with six rebounds and five dimes.
He was certainly well-rounded, which is something positive to take from his play. However, you must be physical if you plan on playing Miami.
I will throw George a bone, he defended LeBron exceptionally. Holding him to 13 points on just ten shots. However, LeBron found other ways to be effective (six rebounds, seven assists). Defending LeBron isn't exactly an easy thing to do, and I thought George did a stand-up job.
With the exception of George on LeBron, the Pacers' defense wasn't anything anyone should want to remember. Going at the Heat, I was expecting the Pacers to let LeBron be LeBron while trying to shut down everyone else. What we saw seemed to be the opposite. LeBron was somewhat subdued, while Bosh, Chalmers and Wade all had over 20 points (Bosh 24, Chalmers 26, Wade 23). I'll admit, a lot of the Pacers defensive struggles came from the fact that Miami has a roster full of extremely gifted shooters. Guys that are going to make shots no matter how well you're guarding them.
The Heat shot 38-68 (55.9%) and 7-14 (50%) from deep. Indy consistently got caught up in the paint, trying to stop the likes of Bosh, Wade and James, leaving way too many wide open looks from beyond the arc for guys like Mario Chalmers (5-6 from deep) and Ray Allen.
A lot of these guys can't multitask on defense. There were a few plays where guys like West and Hibbert would be guarding their man on the perimeter, the ball would be passed down under the basket, and all of their attention would turn to the guy receiving the pass, leaving the passer of the ball (mostly Chalmers) wide open. By the time the ball was thrown back out and Hibbert/West were turned around, the shot was on its way up. Versatility is extremely important in trying to defeat the Heat.
The Pacers had 91 points this evening on just 14 assists. Too many times, Paul George, George Hill and company were going iso, trying to create shots for themselves. Against any good team, there must be communication amongst teammates accompanied by fast, precise movement of the basketball. You've got to keep the opposition on their heels and constantly on the move. Tonight, the Pacers were stagnant and complacent with the basketball and simply never tried to get anything going. George Hill had just one assist.
Indiana turned the ball over 18 times, which translated to 27 points for the Miami Heat. Most of Indy's turnovers came in the paint. Guys were careless with the ball and were turning it over off of offensive rebounds. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.
Ironically enough, Roy wasn't that bad tonight on offense. he shot 7-14 from the field and even hit both of his free throws. It was on defense that Roy seemed to disappear. He simply couldn't cover Chris Bosh (11-15 from the floor). Not only that, but he was horrible on the boards (four rebounds). To combat a guy like Chris Bosh, you've got to frustrate him. He does poorly when his opposition his consistently aggressive, physical and in his face. Bosh doesn't like contact. The only problem being that Roy doesn't like contact either.
He was having such a tough time guarding Bosh, that Vogel even brought in Mahinmi for a stretch in the first quarter. You're not going to defeat the Heat if your head coach is that unsure about how to cover one of Miami's key players.
Roy is one more performance of that caliber away from winning my Softest Man of the Year Award. It pains me to say that. I like Roy. I really do. However, I'm tired of watching a 7'2" player making over $50M not get nasty under the basket when that's what the game calls for. I don't care if he gets fined, suspended (again) or whatever. I want to see him elbow someone when going for a rebound. I want to see him grit his teeth and growl at someone every once in a while. Roy is missing that competitive fire that is required to be a successful center in the NBA, and I believe he has it. It's just subdued deep down somewhere.
The job of bringing that out belongs to Frank Vogel, and I'm sure we'd all like him to do it sooner than later.
All in all, I'm just glad that game is over. The Pacers now know where they stand as the 2nd/3rd best team in the East, and they know what not to do when you face off against the Heat. As a fan of the Pacers, seeing them get trounced by the Heat this late in the season is a little concerning, however all good teams know how to make adjustments following tough games, and this will be one of the most helpful games yet.
Next up: the Pacers head back to Bankers Life to take on The Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, March 13th. Tip is set for 7pm.