Five Pacers' Points of Emphasis for Game 5

The above video shows LeBron throwing a ridiculous bounce pass to a cutting Wade for a baseline dunk. For the Pacers in Game 4, it was the beginning of the end. For this series, it was the end of the beginning. Everything up to this point becomes, well, pointless. Legacies become solidified over the next two or three games.

With that two-handed throw down, the player impersonating Dwyane Wade appears to have been ousted like the Doppel-Deaner in Community. Not it probably wasn’t so much Danny Granger getting into his face after a silly foul by Roy Hibbert that set him off. It was much more likely the nutty three-pointer he hit two minutes prior and then this dunk (which also happened before Granger’s technical foul). Regardless of the catalyst, from here on out, the Pacers can presume that they now, finally, after three and a half games, have to contend with two Hall of Famers who are both actually playing like Hall of Famers.

It’s a new series: a best of three in which Miami has the home-court advantage.

Frank Vogel probably isn’t that worried about having to go on the road, however. For one, the Pacers are better on the road so far than they have been at home, going 3-1 (.750) so far away from home compared to 3-2 (.600) in Indianapolis. And secondly, the team went 19-14 on the road this year, which included wins in Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Los Angeles (over the Lakers), Philadelphia and Orlando (with Dwight Howard). After their win in Game 2 of this series, you can add Miami to that list.

But there is one other reason that I’m sure Vogel is relatively comfortable with this series becoming a best of three: he thinks he has the better team. After the Magic mounted a furious 19-point comeback to send Game 4 of their first-round series into overtime, Vogel told us reporters what he said to his team before the extra time. “We feel like we’re the better basketball team — five more minutes is in our favor.” If you’re the better team for 48 minutes, you should still be the better team for 53 minutes. That was the same mind set had before Game 5. Without Chris Bosh, Vogel believes his team should win. That, he believes, was the case over seven games, and nothing changes when it becomes only three.

I have to say I would agree with his belief.

The Pacers are a better team than a Bosh-less Heat. But even without their third All-Star, Miami at its absolute best is still better than the Pacers at their peak. This “absolute best” means that LeBron and Wade both play as well, if not better, than they did in Game 4 while a few other guys step up, making threes, controlling the glass and playing high-level defense. A Heat team playing like that simply cannot be beat but the Pacers.

But … that team is very unlikely to show up tonight.

Instead, what we are most likely to see is both teams playing somewhere between 60%-80% of what their “perfect game” potential is, and Vogel is likely correct in thinking that his team is better if both teams play somewhere in that range. To do so, here are the key points they need to focus on.

1. Pick-and-Roll Defense

We already (over)analyzed how they had been defending Miami’s screen/roll attack during the first three games of the series. This largely didn’t change in Game 4 — until it did. In the fourth quarter, when Wade and LeBron were absolutely killing the Pacers, the team mixed things up. Rather than have the roll man’s defender drop down into the paint to protect it from any penetration, that defender pressured the ball-handler. This, in turn, left the roll man open. In four separate instances, this was Udonis Haslem. He didn’t roll, however. He popped. (Well, the first one was sort of a “pick and then meander into the lane before strolling over to the baseline). And he knocked down four straight mid-range jumpers. It’s not that this is a strategy that can’t work. It’s just that everyone needs to be on the same page. When David West tried to force the ball out of Wade and LeBron’s hands, nobody really paid any mind to Haslem. Somebody needs to rotate. And if West is going to not stay with Haslem, he needs to put more pressure on the ball-handler than he does on the second play in this clip. That’s just the worst of both worlds: no urgency put on Wade and nobody covering Haslem.

2. Limiting Role-Player Three-Pointers

Again, we’ve been over how leaving Miami’s role players open for threes would likely come back to bite them. And early in Game 4, it did. The Heat only took three triples in the opening quarter, but they all went in. Shane Battier couldn’t have been more open when he hit his, which did happen in a broken transition situation. But the two that Mario Chalmers hit were equally open and both came off simple pin-down screens by Joel Anthony. George Hill reacted as if he had never seen an off-ball screen before. The result was that what had been an early onslaught by the Pacers (albeit one that could have had a much more lasting effect on the game had they not displayed such poor shot selection) was minimized because the Heat role player were chipping away at the lead by hitting wide-open threes.

3. Staying With Cutters

This follows the poor defense Hill played early on Chalmers and is more basketball 101. When the Heat were decimating the Pacers in the third quarter, and Wade was returning to his Finals MVP-caliber play, a lot of it was because he and LeBron were just finding each other open after Pacers’ defenders lost them on cuts. It’s pretty bad to lose Chalmers 25 feet from the hoop just because you weren’t really paying attention, sure. But it’s just unacceptable to let Dwyane Wade duck in directly under the basket for a layup. Five of Miami’s 10 FGs during the third were assisted. At least three of these were finishes in the paint after passes from either LeBron to Wade or Wade to LeBron

4. Get Your Ass in the Paint 

This goes without saying. In part due to foul trouble, but in part due to the team drifting away from what they’re best at, the Pacers got away from running the offense through the front court. Of course West and Hibbert need more than a combined 11 shots in the second half, but its more important that they get touches and put enough pressure on the Heat defense that it is either forced to help or rotate. It is when the Pacers are at their best. And we know they need to play somewhere approaching that level to win on the road against a team this dangerous.

5. Respond — Don’t Just Duck & Cover

Inevitably, in Miami, the Heat are going to go on a major run at some point during Game 5. The worst of it came in the third quarter during Game 4. The Pacers went into a fetal position and their offense completely broke down. They committed 7 turnovers and missed 12-of-18 shots in the period. If it wasn’t for two really nice plays to close the quarter by Granger (and Tyler Hansbrough, who knocked down the jumper Danny set up for him) and Darren Collison (who unbelievably ripped the ball out of LeBron’s hands and smoke everyone down court for a layup), Indiana would have been out-scored 30-12 in the third. That is the type of offensive inertia that lost them Game 1 against Orlando, let Orlando force an overtime in Game 4 and cost them Game 1 against Miami. LeBron is going to be amazing at times. But the Pacers need to realize that what he does on the other end with the ball has nothing to do with their offense. A mentally tough team blocks out the previous defensive sequence and executes on its own side of the court. Indian must.

  • poot

    wtf was that pacers??!??

    last 5 minutes of half:
    Jones misses 20 footer
    Hibbert makes 25 footer
    Hill misses 25 footer
    Granger misses 30 footer
    Barbosa misses 28 footer
    Barbosa misses 11 footer
    Hill makes 13 footer
    turnover (Lebron slams)
    HIll misses 25 footer

    seriously? 2 shots inside of 20 feet? how in the world was this the game plan?
    on at least a few possessions I saw Wade guarding West… wtf!!!

  • poot

    also 4 points from Haslem after he should have been ejected… of course we all expected the officiating to be rigged

  • NoLookPass

    Barbosa making early shots is the worst thing that can happen, he thinks he’s on and goes into hold the ball to kill out the clock then jack a back shot. Granger needs to find that hardness he wants to project out there and come back and help the team even with a sprained ankle especially since he’s the one who pissed off their star players.

    We missed a ton of easy shots that half at the rim which hurts, Lou shouldn’t be allowed to play until he can hit half his FT. West picked it up after his terrible start, Tyler somehow looked good on LBJ and those FF on and against him was totally lame. Roy looked good from downtown but needs to pick it up in the paint, we had him wide open with I think Wad on him but we ignored him for a TO ending in a dunk.

    Frank is getting worked over Spoelstra this series we need him to get it going and part of that will be finding a way to get our bigs going if Danny is gone which will be even harder now that they know its coming and we ignored it most of the series.

  • poot

    i can’t watch this game, this is like having a rooting interest in a WWF matchup. maybe Globetrotterseque if you want to be nice about it

    how many times do the heat get “continuation” on their fouls??? amazing everything on them is a shooting foul but Indiana only fouls on the floor
    how is it possible that Tyler gets a flag1 because Lebron whined to the ref, but Haslem only gets a flag1 when he obviously was trying to hurt Hansbro?? Kerr said “well maybe its a makeup call to set even the other flagrant call” how does that even make sense???

    doesnt seem barbosa or lou were really the problem. i start with the zebras, then onto the 3 point chuck contest at the end of the half (which somehow hibbert won)

  • Bat

    George Hill sucks, don’t offer big contract to him this summer. He absolutely can’t dish pass to inside, Collison is much better in this series

  • NoLookPass

    What did the Heat do heading into game 3 with NY to make Mario Chalmers become a super rebound specialist for his size?.He didn’t have many all year then just 2 over the first to PO games them BOOM tons of boards. He got 6 a game even with Bosh in these those last 3 with NY and carried it over to us.

  • Bat

    Barbosa making shots is the worst thing ? Are you a Heat fan or something ?
    He tends to hold the ball, but it’s a coach thing and Vogel needs to tell him not to.
    Also it’s the result of Hill don’t initiate proper play.

  • Bat

    Pacers stands 29th in Assist. that exposed in this game badly

  • poot

    Pacer fans you have been great but I cannot watch this league any more. It is a joke. So fake. so stupid. like they are trying to pander to 13 year olds. I guess that is the demo which furthers their propaganda about how its real. about how any team can win. about how ratings and sales and popularity of stars doesnt affect the outcome of the game. i am just sick of this. thank you all and keep the faith in the Pacers. They are great, but won’t be able to get anything done until there are some major changes to the integrity of the league.

  • NoLookPass

    @Bat

    Yes Barbosa making a quick bucket is terrible news he will kill the clock out take a bad shot. He started 2-of-2 and is now 3-of-10 and the other make was a prayer to beat a clock.

  • NoLookPass

    Between Lou not getting anyone in the paint and the fact they can’t miss a jumper this is getting ugly.

  • NoLookPass

    We literally had our last guy on the bench in the game and they still had the starters towards the end there.

  • dwain

    wow what an old fashion azz kicking that was…..ugly, brutal and terrible…and guess what? they have to come bac to Indy for the next game…nothings over yet
    granted the 2 ankles are the worst of it, guess we will see how they are doing around game time.
    we got badly outclassed and out played, backs are against the wall but i ain’t given up on this team yet GO PACERS!!!!

  • NoLookPass

    West said he can handle himself and take care of getting hit on the knee out there himself about 3 times in the post game presser so game 6 will be interesting to watch and he will be watched like a hawk by the refs on top of the drama already going in.

  • Havoc

    @poot
    In your first post, you mentioned how the pacers kept jacking up 3′s. That was a shock to me as well. But how do you go on to say the game was rigged? Did the ref’s force them to shoot and clang all those threes? Or maybe did the refs will the ball into the hoop for the heat. I like the fact that @dwain was a little more objective and called it what it was. Ball is in indy’s court. All they can do now is reload and fire back!

  • Chris D.

    This game showed us all the weaknesses we’ve seen all year long. To succeed in the NBA you need either A) a definite floor leader or B) a team where all the individual players can execute a game plan coming out of TOs without being marshaled on the floor. The Pacers do not have A and–when the pressure is on–are often unable to do B. Game 6 will show us what this team is really made of because I see no way we win a game 7. LBJ can beat the entire Pacers team if he has to. That’s why he’s paid a whole $5 million less than Danny Granger and David West combined. (Ha. Ha.) I just want to see what we can do with our backs to the wall so that we (i.e., Larry Legend) can figure out what we need in the off season.

  • youmomsucksdicks

    fuck you faggots indiana…fucking niggers
    thinking you can scratch and muscle into an nba finals
    how about some actual talent ?
    faggots

  • youmomsucksdicks

    niggers never wins..

    also youi can suck my dick after game 6

    fagoots

  • Logical Person

    Once again, another post by @poot that is off base and wrong. I agree with Havoc. The heat are just better and the pacers are finding out life in the NBA is rough with a talent like LeBron, Wade.

  • bj

    i just lost all respesct for lebron and dwade…they showed them laughin on nbatv when lance receivd that elbow,tht your mvp encouragin dirty hits on player.i hope un never get a championship