The Pacers are an odd rebounding team. They’re spotty on the defensive glass. A lot of it is driven by how the defense plays. If the opposing offense can get the defense to start rotating then the Pacers tend to lose contact with rebounders. This tends to happen in flurries, like in Game Two against the Magic, when the Pacers allowed a ton of second-chance points and watched an early lead disappear.
In some ways, those flaws are reflective of the team’s individual players’ weaknesses in rebounding. Roy Hibbert is slow and doesn’t have great hands. It’s not uncommon during these stretches to see him get his hand on rebounds that he doesn’t control. David West also lacks footspeed, but really is just more of a “block-out” guy. His default instinct is to control his man, as opposed to trying to chase down rebounds. He can help settle things down and keep an opposing player from getting a ton of boards, but he can’t himself control the glass. Danny Granger is just a sub-par rebounder for his position, averaging just 5.2 rebounds per game in high minutes for his career. Luol Deng, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Igoudala, by contract, have averaged 6.5, 6.3 and 5.8 per game, respectively. Paul George could be — and often is — a pretty good wing rebounder, but he is also the team’s primary wing defender, so rebounding isn’t his priority.
All this might be problematic against the Heat, a team no defense can survive against if they’re giving up multiple shots on too many possessions. But Miami is only a middling offensive rebounding team. They get their fair share of Sportscenter put-back dunks, but they only hauled down 26.6% of their own misses this regular season, which ranks them 18th in the NBA in terms of offensive rebounding rate (ORR).
So it’s actually the offensive end that will likely be more important for the Pacers when it comes to rebounding. This side of the backboard battle is a much larger focus for coach Frank Vogel. And it shows. During the regular season, the Pacers were the 5th best offensive rebouding team in the league, grabbing nearly 3 out of ever 10 misses (29.5%). Between the coach’s strategic focus on always crashing two bigs to the glass, and the fact that offensive rebounding is a strength for guys like Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough, and Lou Amundson, this isn’t a complete shock.
In the regular season, the Heat were the 10th best defensive rebounding team, so they will certainly enter the series confident that they can keep the Pacers from getting too many second-chance points, regardless of Indy’s prowess in this area. And they have first-hand evidence that shows they can.
As Miami crushed Indy in the first two games — both prior to the All-Star break — the Pacers only managed about an 18% ORR in the two games. The two post-All-Star-break games, however, were much more competitive. In their overtime loss at Miami, Indiana had an 33% ORR. Then, in the Pacers’ 15-point home win, they pushed it up to about 37%.
This could simply be coincidental. But I doubt it. The Pacers were at their best all year when they were pounding the offensive glass, and they will have to get plenty of second-chance points if they want to beat the Heat.