In Game 1 Loss to the Heat, Pacers Can't Overcome Foul Disparity, Adversity

The Pacers lost Game 1 mainly due to the fact that once LeBron James and Dwayne Wade got rolling, Indiana had no answers. Their 6-point half-time lead was quickly erased in the third quarter as the league’s two best players combined for 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Only 4 of these points came at the line, where James and Wade went 4-for-4 in the quarter.

LeBron would continue his onslaught by dropping another 16 points in the fourth quarter as Miami increasingly took complete control of the game while showing Indiana that it was going to take more than one excellent half of play to knock off the title favorites in their building. Really, LeBron was just amazing in every facet of the game, although some will certainly note that 6 of LeBrons fourth-quarter points came at the line while 4 of Wade’s 6 points in the quarter did. Combined, they shot 10-for-10 from the charity stripe the final period.

Obviously that was a big part of Indiana getting out-scored 25-16 in the fourth.

Of course, had the Pacers made more than 3 of their team’s 8 trips to the free-throw line in the quarter, that certainly would have helped. And ultimately, the second-half free-throw disparity was only 22 to 19 in Miami’s favor. (The Heat shot 10 in the third and 10 in the fourth compared to the Pacers taking 11 in the third and 8 in the fourth.)

So anyone who wants to blame the Pacers second-half performance on Miami getting the benefit of too many calls is just seeing something that isn’t there.

When it comes to the first half, however, the Pacers certainly have a case.

According to a post-game report from ESPN’s Michael Wallace, it was certainly something that most of the team’s players consider a major factor in their loss. They weren’t going to say much about it to the press, however. In fact, ESPN characterized the Pacers’ take as being “loudly mum on foul disparity.”

The postgame theme for Indiana was simple and easy to understand: Keep your mouth shut regarding any feelings on the officiating, and keep your money in your pocket.

They did say a little though despite not wanting to get fined by the league for complaining about the refs, like their coach did even before the series started. Wallace did report Granger saying the following, however.

“I don’t even know if I can comment on that, to tell you the truth,” said Pacers forward Danny Granger, who also struggled through a 1-for-10 shooting effort from the field. “You look down our starting lineup and we had five fouls, five fouls, six fouls, four fouls, four fouls. We all left the game in foul trouble at some point. It changed the way you play. It definitely does. I’ve never been in a situation like that.”

As Granger alludes, foul calls can obviously change the game in ways that don’t have to do solely with scoreboard totals and free points. As Indiana’s shooting guard then power forward then small forward then back-up wing then back-up point guard then starting point guard then center all found themselves in first-half foul trouble, the aggressive, methodical style of basketball they had used to build their lead began to disappear. Coach Frank Vogel was increasingly forced to alter his rotation, and the players began to look tentative and concerned with how the game was being officiated. It seemed as though they changed their play.

Publicly, however, Vogel blamed his team for the problem.

“Our guys are fouling too much,” Vogel said after the game. “We are trying to be aggressive, but you can’t be aggressive and foul unnecessarily. It hurts your rotation.”

I have yet to watch the first half again yet, so I’ll reserve judgement on how just or unjust all the individual foul calls were. For reference, below is the first-half play-by-play with all of each team’s fouls highlighted. In the first quarter, Indiana was whistled for 7 fouls while Miami was called for just 1. Paul George, David West and Granger all ended the period with 2. In the second quarter, Indiana was called for 9 fouls compared to 6 for Miami. (That’s 16 to 7 in Miami’s favor for the half.)

Again, I’ll reserve judgement aside from confirming that the Pacers certainly looked to have gotten jobbed on a few calls. There was some ticky tack stuff that you wouldn’t expect in an NBA game let alone one played in the second round of the playoffs. A few more of the 50/50 calls also seemed to go Miami’s way than one would expect.

None of this is any excuse for coming out and playing the way they did in the second half, of course, but it does make Indiana’s frustration understandable.

More than anything, however, the last sentence in Granger’s quote is what stood out to me: “I’ve never been in a situation like that.”

This reminded me of something Granger said after Game 4 of the Magic series, during which the Pacers lost a 19-point lead in the final 8 minutes of regulation before eventually beating a bad team in overtime. About the raucous crowd in the Amway Center, Danny said the following: “It was a hostile environment — one of the craziest environments I’ve played in.”

Even though the 28-year-old Pacers’ captain is a seven-year NBA veteran, he has neither played in many hostile playoff environments nor played through foul trouble in the playoffs.

This is revealing. And it’s not just him. Lest we forget, many of this team’s key players have very little playoff experience.

This was the first game Granger, Hibbert, George and Collison have ever played in the second round. And while West, George Hill and Leandro Barbosa had already played 29, 25 and 69 playoff games, respectively, they have only played six together (including yesterday). The fact remains that this team, as a collective, and these players, in their current roles on this squad, are very inexperienced in the playoffs.

Foul trouble can be a large impediment to winning. So can surrendering points at the line. And frustration is definitely a challenge that can make even the best player falter.

But in the NBA playoffs, failing to withstand adversity has historically been the biggest hurdle to winning. Well, that and playing against great players. Yesterday, the Pacers faced both. And while LeBron and Wade will continue to be on the Heat’s roster and the way the game is officiated will remain out of their control, they can — in fact must — improve their reaction.

Last night, their reaction was to let the game get away from them.

Sure, the refs didn’t help.

But the guys in the zebra costumes had very little to do with the Pacers shooting 11-for-37 (29.7%) in the second half. It’s difficult to overcome foul trouble and make up points lost at the free-throw line. It is nearly impossible, however, to beat the Heat with an offensive performance like that for the final 24 minutes of the game.

(Click for larger version. LeBron .GIF above from SB Nation via Welcome to Loud City)

Topics: 2012 Playoffs, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Pacers Vs. Heat 2012 Playoffs, Pacers Vs. Heat 2012 Playoffs: Game 1

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  • tracy jefferson

    I agree with much of your article Jared but only in part. the foul numbers don’t always show the real picture – at all. 1) Most of the foul calls the Pacers got were non shooting fouls. how convenient? These fouls only stop play, your rewarded the ball and you get to start all over again 2) like my older brother has been known to say “it’s not how many calls but rather when the calls are made. For example: in football do you think a bad pass interfering call in the waning seconds of the game on a scoring drive matters? Of course you do 3) Lebron and Dewayne knew they could be more aggressive offensively and that they would be awarded with free throws or would score.
    And the same could be said defensively: the Heat became more aggressive knowing they wouldn’t get called for some fouls. End result: poor shooting for the Pacers. Thought: a Pacers Spus finals would cause a huge loss of money – a hundred million or more being nice.

  • BR

    If it weren’t for this Pacers team I would hate the NBA.

  • poot

    BR —>
    i feel you on this one
    for many people, this is the matchup of all that is good about the NBA vs all that is wrong with it

  • Mike

    Pooter – Agree.

    Makes me sick.

  • coltraning

    The funniest thing, is the one you repeatedly loop was NOT called as a foul. Hey Einsteins: Miami repeatedly attacked the basket in the paint. There is contact on most plays in the NBA, especially at the rim, so if they actually called the game the way it is written, Indiana would have fouled out in about 12 minutes. No, in the playoffs, the refs swallow the whistle a lot. The fact is, when James or Wade get near the rim, just about the only way they DON’T score is if they are fouled. Now is there the occasional blown call? Sure, but the truth is, far LESS fouls get called than should, and the game would be a much more beautiful and skill-based enterprise if the thugs were not allowed to hammer people in the paint. Indiana got called for the most fouls in the league this year for a reason. Like Pat Riley (post showtime), Chuck Daly and Jeff Van Gundy before them, they accurately figured out that thug ball can often beat skill and talent. The fact is, no one on the Pacers is as talented offensively as James, Wade or Bosh and no one is as talented on the Pacers defensively as James and Wade, so they have to resort to thug play and whining about calls.

  • dwain

    how can u be for Coltrane and the Heat? makes no sense…polar opposites…anyway Pacers in 7

    GO PACERS!!!!

  • jc

    If I were a pacers fan I’d be more concerned with the players worrying about the refs. Let vogal deal with the officiating. They need to put pressure on the heat and force the refs to make the call

  • jc

    What makes the pacers good and the heat evil?

  • dwain

    because this is a Pacers board? there is no good and evil here, that’s a red herring, this is about athletes competing to win a game. it’s about my team against yer team…in this case yer team went out and tried to buy a ring, and ours has been slowly building with drafted talent, we see slowly building as better than insta ring…. star ball vs team ball not good vs evil

  • dwain

    gee maybe the new offense should be, pass it at the flopper’s man……he is open for a sec anyway

  • googergieger

    It’s funny how a lot of people write it off as Indiana letting the game get away from them at the end. How towards the end the refs were finally calling a more fair game so it discounts everything before that. Though you do allude to the fact that the first half was clearly a tough one for Indiana. However they should have been up at least fifteen going into the half. The refs did keep Miami in this game during the first half. Much more Heat “fans” like to point out the fact Miami attacked the paint more. When really, why wouldn’t they? They were getting all the fouls called their way when they attacked and Indiana was getting nothing called when they did attack unless it was an offensive foul. Until the fourth quarter when I will admit the refs did call a pretty even game. However as much as people say it the games don’t always come down to the fourth quarter. The Pacers could have had a comfortable cushion going into that fourth and they didn’t. They were the better team through three quarters and yes at the end they were out played. However it doesn’t change the fact they were clearly screwed through the first three quarters and Miami had a much easier fourth quarter to deal with than they would have if the game was called fairly since the beginning. Oh and I have no dog in this fight. I’m an Orlando fan that didn’t think they had a chance against Indy. Was routing for Denver but now that is done. So I’m just watching to watch now, more or less.

  • dwain

    @googergieger welcome man :) hope u guys get that Howard thing hashed out. Orlando is a great city, lived there for years in the 70′s. Indy was lucky to get past u guys, the team played exceptional ball in that series…that is something to build on.

  • Derek U

    agreed googer! the first half officiating was a joke. the amount of charges awarded was atrocious considering they were still sliding and feet not set. I like what I saw tho, just needs to play harder

  • poot

    heat “fans” only repeat what they are told. basically its all propaganda from the commissioner that they are spreading. Stern needs people to think the NBA is fair, that “your favorite team can win,” that there is a level of excitement that cannot be achieved from a “scripted” performance. so they give the message to ESPN, NBA.com, etc, and they spin that message as “analysis” and use it to back up their core message, “buy NBA products.” consumers of the Heat brand, desperate to maintain their investment’s value, cite these articles, opinions, as facts, mostly out of contest. (9 FTs is not even a big difference, Heat were just more aggressive, etc)

    what did we think was going to happen? Stern says “Actually I have a hand in the outcome of games, it’s not all up to the teams and the refs get paid well to carry out our plans.” ESPN can post an article “Heat stay close, seal win, with assist to officiating crew, Stern.” Fans of 29 other teams stop buying NBA gear, just like little kids stop buying WWF gear when they learned it was fake. Fans of the Heat will remain happy- a win is a win, doesnt matter how you get it.

    It was very well orchestrated in game 1. The officiating was horrible in Q1/Q2. Really bad in Q3. The “even” from a statistical view in Q4, but so many of those fouls were momentum changers just when the Pacers would start to get it going again. So Stern can say, “Look at the fourth quarter, Pacers were in the penalty with 9 min to go.” ESPN can reiterate “Officiating dead even down the stretch, Heat talent/aggressiveness finishes off Pacers.” and Heat fans can cite articles as support for why their team actually deserves to win and is not being assisted by the NBA which is completely fair and without corruption, not realizing they are merely propagating the message from on high

    sorry for the rant, but googer’s rant just got me thinking!

  • Joe

    That was a great explanation poot. I did not fall for that Stern saying the Oscar for MVP awards, because that’s what people want to hear, and it would get him off the hot seat a bit.

    Fortunately, I was unable to watch the first first half, so that saved my voice. However, there were some ripoffs in the second half. Such as, when West was called for a foul on Princess Wade when he didn’t even touch him; also, when it was 90-85, Hill was knocked over after shooting a 3 with no call and after that lebron bumps into George and gets the call. Wade is so used to flopping, I notice him falling to the ground on uncontested layups.

    I’ll admit, it was also the Pacers to blame. They were outrebounded, and they missed way too many free throws late in the game while the Heat were hitting ALL of theirs… or should I say, wade and lebron.

  • little B

    Everyone knew coming into this game the Pacers wouldn’t get the calls to go their way. If you watched this game and didn’t see that you were blind or had the game on mute because during halftime even the analyst and commentators where even talking about it. List at bottom of the big calls Miami got to go their way.
    That being said the “Joe” above is right. Pacers had this game, but got outrebounded, and missed free throws and had a few too many turnovers. Thats why they lost this game.
    No one one this blog has bashed Danny or Paul, which I commend. Pacers dont need them to be the “go to guys” in this series. This is how I see it. Lebron Guards Danny on the wing. Wade guards Paul on the wing. Pacers have Hill, West, Hibbert versus who? Bosh(well not now), Chalmers, Anthony…Pacers should destroy that matchup, we dont even need to go to the bench to win this matchup. DG and PG just need to hit a few shots to keep Wade and James honest. This can be a series if the Pacers dont get wrapped up in the officiating and just play their game. I remember at one point the Pacers had around 20 games in a row where the team with the most rebounds had won, they need to get back to that.

  • little B

    List of big calls that were missed or went the “wrong” way, please add to it if you like

    1. Charge call on Barbosa to end first half. Mike Miller clearly doesn’t take the charge, he pussies out and turns his shoulder into Barbosa. May have been a charge if he stood his ground but he didnt. Took away a 3 point play.
    2. Charge call on George Hill to get his 5th foul. So when can a player just jump in front of someone and get a charge call(plus flop).
    3. Shooting foul on David West in 4th in believe. Wade drives sticks knee is David Wests chest and gets foul.
    Side Bar-I have lost all respect for Dwayne Wade after this game. Guy cries more than a girl on sweet sixteen. Amazing how he never gets a technical. One play he even cried so much he got a cherry pick dunk for it. Also hate how media paints every players picture. They pan away everytime he is whining, but then highlight him and tell the world and kids this is how you play ball when he blocks PG’s layup (it was a good play, but PG get some balls and dunk over someone).
    4. Shooting foul on Hibbert, I believe his 5th. Hibbert goes straight up, Chalmers sticks arm out and hibbert even turns to avoid contact but chalmers swings arm and gets the foul. No call should have been the case.
    5. George Hill’s 3 point play that Joe mentions above. Dwayne Wade comes across both of GH’s arms on the follow through, knocks him to the ground awkwardkly, didnt look like flop, then DW gets a 3 on 1 on other end to ice the game. I believe GH didnt get that call because PG flopped on the other side about 2 plays before that on the same thing except Wade missed him completely.

    All these calls were pivotal, but Pacers could have over came them besides GH’s 3 point shot he didnt get called.
    The foul the Pacers got:
    1. PG getting Hibbert’s 6th foul. Game was pretty much decided then I believe.

  • Kevin

    I thought the refs did a reasonable job. The Pacers fouled on defense in game 1, no doubt about it. It seemed like part of their game plan from the get go- no easy baskets, clog the paint. I liked it. I was excited by some of the fouls (ie. Hill running down Wade on the breakaway). However, it’s not a sustainable strategy if you get into foul trouble early, as Game 1 showed. The players have a different mentality defensively knowing they have 3, 4, 5 fouls under their belt, and Pacer’s weren’t able to exploit Bosh’s injury with Hibbert in foul trouble.

    I want to see more Dahntay Jones on Wade. Wade is crafty. Call him a flopper, an actor, whatever, but the guy knows how to get to the line. He drew fouls from everyone, and the majority of them were shooting fouls (he went to the line 14 times). Dahntay is a good lateral defender, and I think he can force Wade to take more jumpshots and possible take some charges on him. Hopefully, when Wade lifts his knee up on a drive and sticks it into the defender a la Chauncey Billups, the refs will make the right call.