Series Preview, Part 1: Pacers Will Play Heat in Second Round; Game 1 on Sunday at 3:30 pm

It’s official. Pacers. Heat. In Miami. Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. We’ll have more pre-series coverage before then but here is a quick rundown of the two teams’ meetings in the regular season.

1/4  - Miami Heat 118, Indiana Pacers 83 – Boxscore

This was just a straight butt-kicking. Indiana actually started off fairly strong and held the Dwayne Wade-less Miami squad basically even for the first 12 minutes. Then the wheels fell off. The Heat pulled away Miami Vice cigarette boat style and thoroughly embarrassed the Pacers. In a juxtaposition that many expect to see continue throughout this second-round playoff series, LeBron James (33 points, 13 assists, 8 boards) completely out-classed his small forward counterpart Danny Granger (2-for-13, including 1-for-7 behind the arc, shooting for 9 points with 4 turnovers)

2/14 – Miami Heat 105, Indiana Pacers 90 – Box Score

Valentine’s Day massacre. Don’t be fooled by the mere 15-point final deficit. Miami destroyed Indiana even worse than they did in their first meeting. Worse still, it was the Heat’s third straight road game in three nights (and their fourth away from home in five nights). Still, with Dwyane Wade playing this time, they may as well have been playing at home on a game-long power play. The Pacers trailed by 32 heading into the fourth quarter. ”Pretty embarrassing,” said Roy Hibbert  after game. “They just hit us at the start and we just weren’t able to recover … None of us came ready to play tonight.” The box score agrees: no Indy starter scored 15 points or shot 50% from the field.

3/10 – Miami Heat 93, Indiana Pacers 91 (OT) – Box Score

The Pacers should have won this game. They had it late before two huge blunders by Dahntay Jones allowed the Heat to push it to over time. And it took a virtual prayer by Dwayne Wade for Miami to even win in extended time. The Pacers’ late-game execution was bad and it took some unexpected outcomes from the Heat (turning the ball over 20 times and shooting 20-for-31 — 64.5% — at the line) to be in a position to win late, but they also played very well (hitting 6-for-9 from three-point land in the first half) and jumped out to an early lead. That will likely be a key to this series: playing well early. The Heat can often play as frontrunners. If they sense the opponent wobbling early, they’ll blow the doors off and win by 20 (as Indy knows first hand). But if the team can continually match them blow for blow early, it seems increasingly likely that they will hang around long enough to try to out-close the Heat in the fourth.

3/26 – Indiana Pacers 105, Miami Heat 90 – Box Score

The Pacers repaid the early-season favor: they smoked Miami by pulling away in the third quarter. Something we’ve seen them do all year to even great teams. Danny Granger led the way scoring-wise, but six guys finished in double figures and Darren Collison was stellar on both ends. Roy Hibbert, who had a sick dunk on and a sick swat of LeBron James, made his way to Sportscenter a few times and protected the paint on a night when Indiana caught Miami flat-footed. Paul George hit a shot from 65 feet. Just one of those nights, for both teams. Obviously, this is the model the team will try to follow as it attempts to pull off what would be one of the bigger upsets in recent NBA playoff memory. To do so, it will take the concerted effort of a full, deep team out-dueling a superstar-laden squad of assassins. As Jonny said, “Having three superstars is great and all, but when you can spread the scoring out to nearly the whole team like the Pacers did against Miami it is always more entertaining.” Pacers fans, and legions of NBA fans across the nation, will be hoping to see such entertainment for, hopefully the next four to seven games.

Topics: Pacers Vs. Heat 2012

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  • other mike

    the Pacers are going to figure out their 2nd quarter issues fast – or we’re gonna see a couple ass-kickin’s in this series. We can’t rely on the 3rd quarter flurries we saw against the Magic, it might be too late by then.

  • poot

    Pacers-Heat: Better than advertised

    Indiana’s Roy Hibbert could be a difference-maker (PER Diem: May 10, 2012)

    Big or small?

    That’s the defining question as Miami and Indiana get ready to face off in the second round, in a series that could prove much more compelling than advertised. Miami won the regular-season series 3-1, but the Pacers got better each time — losing by 35, losing by 15, losing by 2 in overtime on a buzzer-beater by Dwyane Wade, and finally winning by 15.

    That’s par for Indy’s season, actually. The Pacers’ defense has been rock solid from the get-go, but the offense picked up dramatically after the All-Star break. Indy’s offensive efficiency of 107.5 over its final 20 games dwarfed its 99.4 mark in its first 30 (these numbers from NBA.com’s advanced stats tool); Miami, meanwhile, went in the exact opposite direction, even before playing the JV during the final week.

    Indiana doesn’t have the star power of Miami — its one All-Star, Roy Hibbert, was a “team success” pick who averaged just 12.8 points per game. Instead, the Pacers’ strength lies in numbers; all five starters had a PER above the league average and all five must be guarded.

    Additionally, Indiana was one of the league’s most careful teams managing minutes and keeping players fresh. The Pacers got no attention for this, in contrast to San Antonio, but Danny Granger (33.3) was the only Pacer to play more than 30 minutes per game.

    But the key to the series isn’t Granger. It’s Hibbert, because Miami can’t match up with the Pacers’ 7-foot-2 post threat in the middle. Chris Bosh is a slender 6-11, Udonis Haslem is 6-8 on a good day and Miami’s other alleged centers all are at least 4 inches shorter than Hibbert. The only Miami player with the size to match him is Eddy Curry, who has a better chance of bailing out the Greek economy than he does of playing meaningful minutes in this series.

    Hibbert will play over the top of everyone else on Miami, and on defense he can be a huge factor, as well — just ask the Orlando Magic, sent home by Indiana after five games. Miami has played with at least one non-threatening big man on the court for most of the season, and if it does that against the Pacers it will allow Hibbert to clog the middle and contest drives by Wade and LeBron James. He’s good at it, too, rejecting better than a shot every 15 minutes.

    To see how much of a factor Hibbert might be, check out this stat: When LeBron James was on the court against Hibbert in the four regular-season games, Miami was plus-17 in 128 minutes — not good for the Pacers, obviously, but manageable.

    When LeBron played and Hibbert didn’t? The Heat were plus-30 in 31 minutes. Yikes.

    And Miami has a chance to force a difficult choice for Indiana about how much to play Hibbert — he is not terribly mobile and is a fish out of water on the perimeter, and that’s the first place the big versus small question comes up.

    Miami can play Chris Bosh at the 5 and LeBron James at the 4, with Mike Miller, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers on the perimeter — in fact, one wonders if the Heat will start the game this way. They’d obviously surrender some points having Bosh guard Hibbert (although they could also try James in that role), but Hibbert can’t handle Bosh on the perimeter and would quickly pick up fouls. Additionally, David West doesn’t have a great hiding spot against this lineup, either; he’d probably end up chasing Miller on the perimeter.

    Indy has two potential answers for this, both of which are quite foreign to how it played in the regular season. The first is playing a zone. While you would think the Pacers would do this a lot with Hibbert in the middle and their length on the wings, they were slightly below average in their use of zones, according to SynergySports. Another surprise: They weren’t particularly good at it, ranking just 17th in opponent points per play.

    The other option is to take Hibbert off the floor and go small themselves. Indiana could do this credibly by inserting Leandro Barbosa or Darren Collison to play with George Hill in the backcourt, sliding Paul George and Danny Granger up one place, and playing David West at center. But it would remove a key threat and force West into a defensive role in which he’d be overmatched.

    That explains why the Pacers basically never played this way — their bigs averaged 95.8 minutes per game in the regular season, meaning there was only about 70 seconds per game in which Indy was playing small. (The Pacers averaged 96.9 available frontcourt minutes per game this season rather than 96.0 because of overtimes.) And they didn’t against the Heat, either; based on box score data, they played a grand total of one minute of small ball in the four games.

    So it may be that it’s a small Miami lineup trying to take it to a big Indiana lineup, and that neither team gives in.

    Keep in mind, the big versus small debate isn’t just about the starters. One of the intriguing possibilities for the Pacers in this series is that they can play small off the bench and relegate Louis Amundson to a bit player.

    As I’ve written before, Indy’s bench was a secret liability this season — Amundson, Tyler Hansbrough and Dahntay Jones all had negative plus-minus ratings and Barbosa was barely positive. That tendency carried over to the first-round series against Orlando; Amundson was the only player with a negative rating, while the five starters had the five best marks.

    But Pacers coach Frank Vogel did begin playing small, in short increments, against the Magic. Amundson played only 37 minutes over the five games. Indiana played four perimeter players with David West at center for 13 minutes, and with Hansbrough for two. That may not seem like much, but it’s a veritable outbreak compared to the regular season.

    There is opportunity for the Pacers to do the same in this series, further restricting their reliance on a Hansbrough-Amundson duo that was outscored in the regular season. That latter combo simply destroys Indiana’s offense — opponents don’t guard Amundson, and Hansbrough shoots every time regardless of whether he’s open (I have a fun stat for this that I’ll show next week; suffice it to say Hansbrough is elite in this category).

    However, Miami can force the matchup action in another way: by going big in the backcourt. Indiana plays two small guards, Collison and Barbosa, and usually plays them together with the second unit.

    If Miami goes to one of its jumbo lineups with LeBron or Wade at the point, it may force the Pacers to take at least one of those players off the court. Additionally, it would be virtually impossible for Indy to go small against that group unless it resurrects Dahntay Jones, who had a rough regular season but may be a factor in this series because of his defensive ability on the wings.

    So with all that said, why do I think Indiana will make this series close? Basically, because the opportunity is here for the Pacers to cut their rotation further and ride their best players dramatically more than in the regular season.

    And if they ride the starters, this is going to be a heck of a series. News flash: Indiana’s starting lineup was just as good as Miami’s this season. I don’t think people understand how little Indy’s starting lineup played or the implications for this series if that group is playing more standard playoff minutes, but let me walk you through them.

    Both teams made switches to their regular starting quintet late in the year, so let’s combine: Miami’s starting five was plus-12.4 points per 48 minutes with Haslem in the middle and plus-9.7 with Joel Anthony; the Pacers were plus-15.1 with Hill at the point and plus-9.1 with Collison.

    Or look at it this way, using quartets: Chalmers-Wade-James-Bosh was plus-11.8 for Miami; George-Granger-West-Hibbert was plus-10.0 for the Pacers, according to NBA.com.

    Conclusion: Indy can hang with these guys, folks. As with Miami, it’s the Pacers’ bench lineups that have hurt them, and we’ll see dramatically less of those in this series.

    I still like Miami to win. The Heat have home-court advantage, a major experience edge and a couple of lineup options that may be difficult for Indy to answer. That’s why I took the Heat in seven.

    Nonetheless, Indy has the length on the wings to match up with Miami, the firepower in the starting lineup to keep pace and a big man that the Heat can’t handle one-on-one.

    If it’s as close as I expect, keep monitoring the big versus small — in both the frontcourt and the backcourt. The team that takes better advantage of these potential disparities is likely to be the winner.

  • NoLookPass

    Funny Hollinger says Hansbrough shoots every time he gets it and he had a 1.5 drop in FGA per game from last year to this year in only 5 seconds less a game and .5 less than his rookie year in 4:12 more a game. So if he’s shooting every time he gets it then our other players are doing quite the terrible job of sharing the rock and shooting it a ton themselves.

    In other news Hans finishes 3rd on two ballots for 6th man of the year despite far less shots than most everyone on the list. HIll got 1 3rd place vote and Dunleavy also was tied with Tyler with 2 3rd place votes with James Harden as the clear run away winner from game 1.

  • Money

    Regular season means nothin at this time of the season. Heatles in 5, anit nobody ready 4 us

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