While re-watching Game 1, there were a bunch of sequences that stood out. There was plenty the Pacers did well and just as much that they did poorly. Here are the take-away lessons the Pacers should remember from each of the game’s quarters.
- Be smarter than a third grader
- Post up, early and often
- Exploit Miami for “ball stalking”
- Get back on defense, for chrissakes
1. Half-way through the first quarter, the Pacers surrendered 2 points when Chris Bosh missed a free throw and watched the ball bounce right back to him. He caught it and laid it in. Mistakes like not blocking out the shooter at the foul line are inexcusable in 3rd grade rec basketball. In Game 1 of a series everyone but you thinks you’re going to lose? Seriously?
2. If Miami is going to continue to front Hibbert and guard both he and David West without doubling, Indiana must play through these guys constantly. Get the ball to Roy on the block where he can unleash his post-move arsenal and West in the elbow area where he can use his crafty-ox-strength-tool-box-of-weapons as much as possible. This goes without saying but it can’t be said enough. (Deep, I know.) Brett Koremenos of Hoopspeak has some good advice on how to ensure this works better in Game 2.
Tonight, the Pacers’ biggest adjustment must simply be to have more patience. Too many times, Indiana’s ball handlers rushed their actions and forced themselves into bad spots. On the fronting issue in particular, the player making the entry pass needs to slow down, use pass or shot fakes to make the defense commit to either helping on the big or staying on the shooter, and then make the corresponding read.
Once the Pacers show some poise, then the tactical adjustments can be made. The first being that head coach Frank Vogel needs to eliminate any post ups on the block for players not named Roy Hibbert. David West is much better facing the basket and none of the Pacer wings have shown enough post dominance to warrant touches other than in extreme situations (like Granger with one foot in the paint and Mario Chalmers switched onto him).
Vogel also needs to switch how he is getting Hibbert his post looks. Miami’s fronting scheme is most effective in two situations: when the Pacers run a cross screen into a post up or when they simply look for him in transition. In both of these situations, weakside helpers can easily position themselves to deny the lob pass over the top. The easiest way to get Hibbert great positioning is for him to set a ball screen then dive to the weakside block.
Because Miami traps/hedges so aggressively, their big men will be pulled higher onto the perimeter and thus have a longer path to recovery IF the Indiana ball handler does his job by stringing out the trap. Then another Pacer must act as the pressure release to move the ball from the guard to Hibbert in the post.
3. Dwyane Wade spends a lot of time not looking at the guy he is guarding. Instead he roves around looking for a vulnerability he can attack to force a turnover. He is one of the best defenders in the league and he becomes even more dangerous if his man is a statue. Whoever Wade is covering should try to, even once or twice during the game, cut into space for an open shot to try to catch Dwyane while he is busy ball-stalking.
4. The Pacers must get back quickly after a miss. Again, this is obvious, but it’s a problem. Mid-way through the first, Leandro Barbosa missed a baseline jumper and the rebounder outletted the ball to Wade. He didn’t even push it that quickly, taking two measured dribbles up the court. Still, LeBron was able to leak back behind everyone for a half-court alley oop. Can’t fall asleep. The same thing happened not long after on a live-ball turnover. Miami was more aggressively pushing it in this case, but Barbosa, who had just recently come into the game, was just loafing back. Wade got a layup after LeBron threw the pass forward. He missed, but James raced to the front of the rim before anyone else to get the board and put it in.
SECOND QUARTER TAKEAWAYS
- Second unit needs to think Jerry Glanville: Run and shoot
- Keep not hesitating, Tyler
- Listen to coach
- Shooters: Remember your big guys are bigger than their big guys
- Strike quickly
5. At one point early in the second, Barbosa wound up being guarded by Joel Anthony. He petulantly waved away everyone until he was iso’d against the slow-footed, large-craniumed big. He then drove right by him for a bucket. Barbosa — and Collison — need to continue to attack, attack, attack with this mentality. They are fast, agile and annoying. The last thing Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller want to do is chase pipsqueaks around. Frustrate Miami’s non-stars and don’t let them ever get comfortable. That’s when they thrive.
6. When Tyler Hansbrough pushes people around and Tazmanian Devils his way into the paint, he can have a huge effect on the game. He needs to do everything he can to make everyone else not want to catch one of his elbows in their face. And when he is not doing that, he needs to pace the floor as he did throughout his first stint of the game by hitting catch-and-shoot jumpers with no hesitation. Repeate: NO. HES. IT. TATION.
7. Amazing quotes from Frank Vogel picked up by ABC. “Championship-level passing.” “Do what the Mavericks did — BUT DO IT BETTER.” “Look, they can’t guard great passing. You’re passing the ball great to start. We’ve got to do that for four quarters.”
8. Late in the quarter, Barbosa blows by Mike Miller to get into the lane. He sort of bobbles the ball and has trouble getting a clean shot off but puts it up on the glass anyway. The defense is all out of position and Hibbert has all the room in the world to grab the board and draw the foul. A few minutes later, West was able to effortlessly grab a board and put the ball in the hole. When in doubt, especially with Bosh gone, get a good shot up. Putting up a tough shot isn’t the worst sin in the world against a defense as good as Miami, especially when your bigs are so much bigger than theirs. Trust your offensive rebounding, especially when you can attempt a shot from inside 15 feet against scrambling defense.
9. With 2:30-ish to play, West came up for a high pick-and-roll with George Hill. As Haslem over-played the hedge, anticipating where Hill would eventually go, West instead slipped the screen and dove to to the elbow. Hill quickly hit him with the pass and Bosh was left alone to deal with both David and Roy. West could have made a little pass to Hibbert but caught Bosh in no-man’s lane and just tossed in a little floater. Slipping the screen was a great reaction by West, and Hill showed perhaps even greater recognition by getting him the ball so quickly. Indiana must always be trying to look for tiny vulnerabilities like that and strike quickly when they find one. Because there aren’t many.
- Pick a pick-and-roll defense
- Live-ball turnovers equal dead Pacers
- Shot blockers have to adjust to the refs
- Move once in a while
- Don’t be afraid to shake up the rotation
10. In the first minute of the second half, LeBron and Turiaf ran a pick and roll that Granger played very nicely. They went right back to it though and Danny struggled to get through the screen. Hibbert was even worse. He neither stopped LeBron from advancing nor guarded his own man. James dribbled into the paint, Roy finally challenged him and he dumped it to Ronny for the dunk. No man’s land. In this situation, Hibbert will never be able to both get out to bother LeBron and recover quickly. But he can’t choose to do neither. This will be the key defensive adjustment Indiana needs to make going forward, especially if LeBron plays a lot of power forward minutes. If Roy can’t do it, Lou Amundson — who played some tremendous pick-and-roll defense by blitzing the ball-handler — can.
11. About 30 seconds later, Granger threw a weak, lofty cross-court pass that he for-god-knows-what-reason thought would travel 45 feet without being picked off. It didn’t. Chalmers snatched it and handed it off the Wade, who out-ran everyone down the floor for the dunk. Danny, if you’re going to turn the ball over so badly, just punt the ball into the stands. At least give your team the chance to defend the ensuring possession.
12. Hibbert got whistled for his third foul when he went up high and (mostly) straight to block a Wade layup/dunk attempt. There was certainly contact as the the guys collided. But Roy did the exact same thing constantly against the Magic to get, what were called, clean blocks. He seems to have embraced the notion that a defender is generally allowed “verticality” in the sense that he can sky to challenge a shot and even extend his arms at the ball without being called for a foul even if the bodies do clash. It’s the whole “straight up” thing that people clamor about (sometimes erroneously). The past is the past though and what worked in previous games may not in every one going forward. Roy needs to adjust.
13. On one successful action, Collison entered the ball into the West on the block and then cut baseline. West found him wide open for the layup. Two great things here: (1) running offense through West as the facilitator has been productive, and (2) quick-hitting cuts like this really stand out when everyone else is standing around, as Indy’s other perimeter players had been early in the third quarter.
14. It can be argued that Darren Collison has been Indiana’s most consistently good player so far this postseason. If he keeps playing as well as he did for much of the third quarter, it will be hard to validate keeping him under 25 minutes — particularly if Paul George is giving the team nothing offensively and can’t stay out of foul trouble. If things start looking shaky in Game 2, it might be time to screw the regular rotations and just keep whoever is playing best on the floor.
- Important: Try hard to make shots, guys
- No mental vacations
- Practice restrained urgency
- Don’t do incredibly stupid things
- Opt for the easier path
15. Down 2 early in the fourth, Granger was working to back down Battier on the block. He had him pretty well beat. A double came and he kicked it out to a wide-open Collison behind the arc. But Darren simply blew the jumper. For all the analysis we all try to do, sometimes that is why you lose. (After the miss, LeBron also just dribbled all the way down court into the lane and put in a bucket over a helpless Collison, the only guy to really get back and ready to play defense. You might not always make every shot, but you can probably get back on defense. This wasn’t even a particularly aggressive transition attack.)
16. On the ensuing possession, after catching a swing pass on the left wing, Granger hoisted a non-squared-up “whatever” three with LeBron right on him. It was a shot that would have been ill-advised in the second quarter of a January game against Charlotte. With your team down 4, and trying to keep it together, in the fourth-quarter of playoff game against the Heat, it is just stupid. Granger’s reaction? He fouled LeBron 40 feet from the hoop on the other end. I don’t want to harp on the bad shot too much — it happens — but Danny’s 15-second vacation from discipline wasted a possession, put Miami closer to the bonus and gave the crowd some down time to get excited. LeBron and Wade were Hulking on confidence and being fueled by the crowd. Wade scored easily in the paint seconds later. Miami went up 6. Vogel had to take a time out.
17. Perhaps worse than Granger’s bad shot was a possession around 6:00 when the Pacers just wandered around aimlessly, lazily meandering through their offense. George Hill finally just decided to pull up for a 27-foot three-point with about 6 seconds left on the shot clock. This sharply contrasted the attack-everything mentality of Barbosa, who had just recently checked out of the game. Being patient is one thing, but the offense needs to be run with some restrained urgency as well. If nothing is materializing, at least try to penetrate first before launching a jumper. I don’t believe the ball even went inside the arc on the possession. Hill shot, and made, a three soon thereafter that was a much more calculated shot taken after probing the defense. The difference in the two approaches was considerable.
18. When you’re down by 6 with under two minutes to play, don’t just throw the ball into the crowd. This one is for David West, mostly. If you don’t do that again, your team’s chances of winning will improve dramatically.
19. Don’t lose. Going down 0-2 to Miami is a virtual death sentence. No Bosh makes such a comeback possible, but it’s still not advisable to try.