Post-Game Grades: Heat Embarrass Pacers in Miami

Sweeping the Miami Heat in the regular season was a pipe dream. This could well be the best NBA team in a decade and while the Pacers had to thrilled to come away with two victories, it is bittersweet considering just how lopsided this game was.

Miami simply out-classed Indiana on both ends, clearly illustrating just how wide of a gap exists between the two teams when each is playing at its peak.

The shooting by the Pacers was bad enough (41.3% for the game), but more disturbing was how easily the Heat just took the ball away. The Pacers’ perimeter players — plus David West at times — just didn’t seem to understand that guys like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade live in passing lanes. Instead, they continually threw half-hearted swing passes, kick-outs and interior dishes that were, at best, deflected and recovered or, often, stolen and taken the other way.

The Pacers did not seem to understand the quickness, athleticism, power and anticipation that the Heat have on the perimeter. In the third matchup of the year — following the six games the teams played last postseason — that is what seemed the most disturbing.

On the positive side, physical variables are a thing that can snowball in an NBA game.

We have seen the Pacers, for example, do it to teams all season: they impose their will early on defense and the other team is never able to get comfortable running offensive sets.

And it’s not like we haven’t seen the Pacers’ offense flounder, oh, three dozens times this season already. It’s just that, generally, when this team can’t score it is because they slog their way through the shot clock and listlessly meander around until somebody tosses up a shot.

We have less often seen this offense get straight bullied, beat up and bruised.

Miami played the role of the dominant defense in this one, making Indiana’s passers look half their size and one-fourth as strong. It is just strange to see a guy like West get trapped on the perimeter and look helpless while weakly pivoting and trying to find somebody — anybody — to get the ball to.

More often, the case seemed to just be carelessness. Paul George and George Hill threw swing passes that were fine in terms of ball reversal, but just weak and slow execution-wise. They lacked zip.

This wasn’t surprising.

The Pacers have just recently figured out how to move the ball around and attack in ways that consistently lead to scoring chance. Against the Pistons and Magics of the world, that is enough. They have been able to beat the rotations by just making the right decisions alone.

We have seen against Miami, and also Boston, that that isn’t enough against better, hungrier, less passive defenses. Guys like LeBron and Avery Bradley don’t let you dictate what you want to do. Bradley’s pressure is more visible, but LeBron (and Wade) apply theirs less obviously, baiting you into thinking a passing lane is available before pouncing.

What we have seen since the All-Star break — as the Pacers have learned to shoot higher percentages, work the ball through their sets better and involve everyone in the attack — has been promising.

But to take it to the next level — a level that can propel this team to the Eastern Conference Finals — it’s not enough to just have good ideas. It’s not enough to know where the next pass should go. It’s not enough to swing the ball when you should swing or kick out when you should drive and kick.

No. The next level includes delivering the ball on point, quickly and with enough zip that the opposition has to react to you. Because if the Pacers’ offense tries to play a series against Miami where it is reacting to what the Heat defense does, they won’t even make it game six this time.

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Here is how each guy played individually tonight. Agree? Disagree? Express your thoughts below in the comments or yell at me (@8pts9secs) or Tim (@TimDonahue8p9s) on Twitter.

David West, PF 34 MIN | 7-10 FG | 10-11 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 24 PTS | -17 

Shot very well and ensured the Pacers stayed in the game as long as they did.

Paul George, SF 41 MIN | 2-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 10 PTS | -20 

It’s one thing to miss shots, but he was hoisting some bad looks and being overly cavalier with his passes, allowing Miami to get deflections and steals that sparked their break.

Roy Hibbert, C 32 MIN | 7-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 16 PTS | -31 

Gave further credence to the idea that the Pacers can give Miami trouble inside. Just one rebound is a joke.

George Hill, PG 22 MIN | 2-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -22 

Hit a three early and did nothing much helpful after that.

Lance Stephenson, SG 33 MIN | 1-5 FG | 4-5 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -20 

Was completely neutralized by the Heat’s wing defenders and was never able to get out into the open court to help a struggling Pacers’ offense pick up some easy points.

Tyler Hansbrough, PF 14 MIN | 0-3 FG | 4-6 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +3 

Nothing to be excited about.

Jeff Pendergraph, PF 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +7 

Garbage time.

Sam Young, SF 7 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | +2 

Right on.

Ian Mahinmi, C 13 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +10 

Was unable to make his presence felt much.

Ben Hansbrough, PG 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +7 

Garbage minutes.

D.J. Augustin, PG 24 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +1 

Shot very well, obviously, and generally tried to use his quickness to his advantage. He wasn’t always successful, however, as the offense sputtered for long stretches with him on the court.

Orlando Johnson, SG 15 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +10 

Played fine.

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