You can’t really do much about Dwyane Wade hitting a double-clutch, 20-foot, game-winning jumpshot with 0.1 seconds left in overtime. But there was a ton that this team could have done to win in regulation.
For one, you can not have Dahntay Jones make two game-losing plays in a 20-second span with a minute left in the fourth quarter to take his team from being up by 4 to being down by 1. For two, you can not let your point guard dribble away the clock with 10 seconds left in a tie game only to lose the ball and not allow his team to even attempt a shot to win it in regulation. And for three, you can not leave LeBron James in the corner and allow him to shoot a wide-open three when you are ahead by 3 points.
Those four (counting both of Dahntay’s) major blunders are the difference between the Pacers celebrating their best victory of the year and them losing their third straight game. Yes, Dwyane Wade was brilliant in the first half. Yes, LeBron was a force that physically looked like he should be playing in a league above the NBA at times. And, yes, the refs were not kind to Indiana. But they really did play well enough to win this one. I mean, it was an overtime game so I really don’t even need to say that.
Ultimately, this wasn’t all that different from what routinely happened to the Pacers down the stretch against the Bulls in the playoffs last year: look the equal of a better team for between 45 to 47 minutes before failing to execute late and, thus, losing to a team that did.
Moral victories really don’t exist for this team anymore. The Pacers players will feel no optimism about coming up short but only by a little, and they really shouldn’t. Because even to make it to overtime, it required (1) the Pacers hitting 6-for-9 from beyond the arc in the first half, (2) Miami turning the ball over 20 times, and (3) Miami shooting just 20-for-31 (64.5%) at the line.
None of those outcomes are sustainable and shouldn’t be expected to happen again when these teams play next. But if the Pacers execute like this again down the stretch against Miami — or any good team, really — there is one outcome that we can expect to see repeated: the final one.
Then again, sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce the right way either. And that’s exactly what happened on Wade’s shot so perhaps all this is just a weird game with no lessons. He couldn’t make that prayer again if he tried. The real takeaway here then: this season is weird and there’s another game tomorrow. Pretty much always.
UPDATE: In my haste to chastise the players for their inability to execute, forgot to mention that the coach was at fault as well. That final play-call, which as I recall was for Collison trying to make a play perhaps in a pick-and-roll with some action trying to free Paul George on the weakside, may have been fine in a vacuum. But even before the in-bounds it became apparent that LeBron was going to cover him and I don’t think many people would put that matchup in the Pacers favor. As expected, LeBron blanketed Collison who, through some fault of his own, sure, but also due to genetics, could not see much by the 6’8″, 260 lb guy guarding him nor could create any separation against a guy that size who is just as agile as him.
What I think should have happened: call a timeout before the in-bounds and adjust. And maybe go back to the Paul George/David West pick-and-roll that re-gained Indy the lead 20 seconds earlier. Regardless of any matchup considerations, that was probably the play to run in that situation, and is one that looks like it could be highly effective both late in games and during games going forward. Unlike Collison, George has the size to not get out-physicaled by the guy blitzing him after the screen. And even if that guy does push him to a place he doesn’t want to be, he both has the quickness to make something happen on his own and the size to see over the double and make any pass on the court. Whether or not he will always be able to make he right play is still up for debate. But he did make the good pass to West with 30 seconds to go in regulation. So why not give him another go?
|David West, 35 MIN | 4-18 FG | 7-8 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS |
Hurt the team for much of the game, shooting 1-for-9 for the first 3 quarters. But dropped 5 pts in the final 3 mins of regulation, including getting to the line for the 2 FTs that regained Indy an 83-82 lead with 30 secs to play.
|Danny Granger, SF 43 MIN | 7-17 FG | 4-6 FT | 7 REB | 19 PTS |
Was the guy that kept the offense scoring in the 3rd and put in 4 of his team’s 6 OT points by getting into the paint. BUT … Left LeBron wide-open in the corner to hit the game-tying 3-pointer with 10 secs to go in regulation.
|Roy Hibbert, C 36 MIN | 2-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS |
Made some impact in the 3rd quarter and regained Indy some presence in the paint on defense. But let’s be honest. He was goddamn terrible.
|Darren Collison, 39 MIN | 6-11 FG | 0-1 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 14 PTS |
Coughed up the ball when Indy had a chance to win in regulation (and a bunch of times throughout) and that will overshadow an otherwise pretty good game. To me. To fans. And to him.
|Paul George, SG 32 MIN | 5-9 FG | 2 REB | 3 AST | 4 STL | 12 PTS |
Started off hot, scoring 7 points in the first few minutes and played some stellar defense at times throughout. So many deflections. Got the tough end of some calls and found himself in foul trouble in the second half but, worse, stopped being aggressive with the ball.
|Dahntay Jones, SG 22 MIN | 3-6 FG | 3-4 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS |
Jesus Christ, Dahntay Jones. Played a remarkable game aside from two plays: (1) he turned the ball over with his team up 4 and 1:07 to play in regulation then (2) foolishly fouled LeBron while he made a breakaway layup 20 secs later. Good lord.
|Louis Amundson, 13 MIN | 5 REB (5 ORB) | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 PTS |
Wonderful effort off the bench, playing good defense and doing an effective Jeff Foster impression on the offensive glass.
|A.J. Price, G 14 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 2 PTS | 0 |
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF 22 MIN | 3-7 FG | 3-3 FT | 2 REB | 9 PTS |
Started off ugly with 0 pts and 0 boards in 7 first-half minutes but wasn’t so gross after that. Active and 3-for-5 shooting from the field and 3-for-3 from the line the rest of the way.
|Lance Stephenson, SG 9 MIN | 0-1 FG | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS |
Not too bad. Found a way to contribute on the glass when he wasn’t involved offensively.