Game 1 was a tale of two halves for the Pacers. In the first they did a lot of things well. In the second … not so much. I will go over all the things they did well and poorly in each half.
The Pacers started the game by backing up all their talk of “not being the underdogs” and seemed as if they were completely unaffected by the spotlight and the Miami Heat. They seemed as if they were there to send a message to the whole league, and this is exactly the type of mentality they need to with stain going forward in the series.
Offensively – Usually when Indiana’s best player, Danny Granger, doesn’t play well, the team doesn’t either, but that wasn’t the case in the first half. Even though Danny didn’t score a single point in the first half, I have no problem with the way the Pacers were playing offensively. They did exactly what any team should do against the Heat: make the game physical and attack in the paint. David West and Roy Hibbert finished the half with 12 and 10 points, respectively, and Tyler Hansbrough added 8 points. These are the positions that the Pacers need to attack with. The Heat are undersized at the 4 and 5 with their tallest rotation player being Chris Bosh at 6″11.
Defensively – Whenever LeBron James or Dwayne Wade attempted to get in the lane the Pacers did a great job of double-teaming them way out of the paint and forcing them to restart the play. This is exactly what the Pacers need to do: force Miami into jump shots and post-up plays later in the shot clock. If Bosh scores 13 points in the first half, that’s great for the Pacers — it means the Heat are playing exactly as the Pacers want to play.
At the end of the first half of the last game between the Heat and Pacers in the regular season, Paul George hit a half court buzzer beater, which gave the Pacers a ton of momentum. I feel that if Leandro Barbosa had gotten the right call at the end of the half and put the Pacers up by 9, the Pacers would’ve been able to carry the momentum and played better in the third quarter, which they normally dominate.
Coming into the second half, the Pacers seemed to have lost that mentality I talked about earlier. The Heat came out strong with LeBron and D-Wade starting to take over in the 3rd quarter. The Heat erased the 6-point lead the Pacers had in less than four minutes, and the Pacers seemed to have lost all the confidence that they had in the first half.
Offensively – The Pacers were lucky to go into the 4th all tied up, because in the 3rd they started settling for way too many jump shots and were shying away from post ups. This is especially strange considering the abdominal injury right before half time that sidelined Bosh for the rest of the game. In the 3rd quarter the Pacers had a combined 5 points from the PF/C positions and none of those came from post ups. In the 4th, things got even uglier. By the time Roy Hibbert scored, the Heat had already started to dictate the flow of the game, and the Pacers couldn’t change it. The Pacers started turning the ball over, which led to way too many fast breaks for the Heat.
Defensively – For some reason the Pacers started to let LeBron and D-Wade have wide-open looks that they weren’t getting in the 1st half. They stopped coming out with double teams that forced them to restart the play and let them into the paint without much resistance. After George Hill hit a 3 to make it a 1-point game, the Pacers started fouling LeBron and D-Wade nearly every time they drove the ball into the paint. Without all those double teams, the Heat were able to stop settling for jump shots and post ups, which meant they could play the game the way they love to: by driving to the basket.
Looking Forward in the Series
Once the Heat are able to dictate their flow of the game, it’s nearly impossible to stop them. The Pacers have to apply the ideas they had in the 1st half throughout the entire series. The Pacers need to work the ball on the inside all game long to wear Miami down and force them to play in a way they don’t want to play. As long as the Pacers can keep the game slow-paced they will hold the advantage.
The second it starts becoming fast-paced, LeBron and D-Wade will be able to run away with it.