Game 1 was obviously decided on the last play and will probably go down in history as one of the most controversial coaching decisions in NBA history. But truth be told, the Pacers had many, many other chances to close out the game. The Heat didn’t take the game from the Pacers, the Pacers gave it away.
They had chances in overtime and they had chances late in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately, they failed to capitalize, thus putting the Heat in position to win the game in the final 2.2 seconds. The Pacers should have ended it way before that.
Lance Stephenson and George Hill were more or less non-factors all game (other than Lance’s 12 rebounds) but they were specifically horrible in the late 4th and overtime.
Thus, I’m going to go through the play by play of the game, highlighting the Pacers’ key missed opportunities.
We’ll start with the game tied 80-80 with 4:40 left in the 4th.
Wade ended up with an isolation on George Hill. He made a nice behind-the-back move to get to the basket, but Hibbert rejected the shot towards the 3-point line. Lance was in almost the perfect position to chase the loose ball down but started leaking out on transition. He changed his mind almost instantly, but it was too late. Norris Cole was able to reach the ball before him and pass it to LeBron for a wide open three.
On the Pacers next possession, David West got fouled by Shane Battier, but he only went 1 for 2 from the line. That late in the game, you gotta make both free throws.
Here, Lance gets caught inexcusably ball watching, which allows Wade to get a clean pass from Norris Cole on a cut to the basket. Wade drains the floater and the Heat go up by 4, which Paul George is able to cut to one 30 seconds later by hitting an open three.
On Miami’s next possession after the George three, they turn the ball over thanks to a good ol’ punch to David West’s “proverbial mid section” (can we really not just call them balls?) by Norris Cole. (If one team hits players on the opposing team in the balls twice in one game, shouldn’t that be a flagrant foul?)
The Pacers fail to take advantage of Cole’s turnover thanks to Hibbert fumbling a nice wrap around pass by West. How many times is West gonna have to do that until Hibbert is ready for that?
It seems like it happens almost once a game…
On Miami’s next possession Wade makes a back-door cut after some random dinosaur sets the screen for him. Lance plays it horribly and ends up leaving Wade wide open under the basket for an easy layup. It also would’ve been nice to see some help here by David West, who didn’t even seem to notice the cut.
Paul George gets fouled on the Pacers next possession (*hits play on tape recorder*) but doesn’t hit both free throws.
Both teams trade baskets on their next possessions, and the Pacers end up tying the game 89-89 with 54 seconds left coming off a nice driving floater by David West.
On Miami’s next possession Sam Young and George Hill decide to join in on the defensive miscues festivities. Samuel looks like he’s anticipating Hill to switch onto Wade and doesn’t fight over the screen hard enough. Hill doesn’t cut off Wade who gets to the lane much too easily.
Hibbert was out of position and isn’t able to recover fast enough to fully challenge Wade. It was a nice layup by Wade but Hibbert wasn’t in ideal position to contest, which would be in front of the ball handler, not from the side.
After Wade’s bucket to give Miami a 2 point lead, Paul George gets a good look at a mid range turnaround shot which he misses. Lance then gets the rebound and kicks it out to PG. What Paul George should have done then was hold on to the ball or pass it to George Hill in order to reset the offense. Instead he drove, jumped and in mid air decided to pass the ball to Lennay Kekua.
You know what happened next. Ray Allen misses one of the game sealing free throws and Paul George hits an insane three to send it into overtime. Had the Pacers not come up short on so many of these late 4th quarter opportunities, it probably would’ve been Miami down in the final moments if the 4th.
On the Pacers first possession of overtime West was able to draw a foul on Shane Battier. And… he missed em’ both.
Fast forward to 3 minutes left in overtime with the Pacers up 96-94: After a perfect defensive possession in which the Pacers forced Miami into a shot clock violation, they have the chance to go up by 4 or 5.
Instead, David West misses a wide open floater Wade is able to get the fast break bucket off of poor defense by Lance Stephenson. 4 point swing.
Luckily, Paul George was able to pull out a three point play out of nowhere to give the Pacers a three point lead. Miami missed their next shot again giving the Pacers the opportunity to go up by two possessions.
Instead Lance settled for a three. I know on first glance it seems like this shot might be ok, but I would’ve much preferred to see Lance at least try driving to the basket. Especially considering how un-aggressive he was all game long. At the very least, by driving he would’ve been able to draw in either Bosh or LeBron and been able to kick it out to Paul George. Best case scenario, he would have had an open floater. Anyhow, he’s shooting his threes at a 24% clip during the post season, so I’d rather him not attempt a three in crunch time. Unless he makes it. Then I want him taking it.
Now Miami has a chance to cut the lead to 2 or 3. Shane Battier set a screen for LeBron and David West overplayed it, while Paul George failed to switch onto Battier. LeBron found Battier for a wide open three from the top of the arc. Thankfully, he missed it. Unfortunately…..
Chris Bosh blatantly shoves Roy Hibbert to get an offensive rebound. They didn’t call it on Bosh. Instead Paul George got called for a foul which allowed the Heat to tie the game up.
Now the Pacers have a chance for the go ahead bucket with under a minute left. Every Pacers fan knows what the Pacers are looking for here. A David West post up into his patented fadeaway jumper, there’s no way the Heat will let that happen, right?
They let him have it. He makes that shot 157% of the time it feels like.
But instead, it rimmed out, he missed his patented shot…
LeBron went on to get an easy layup on the nest play after George Hill switched on to him. Jon Washburn did a great job analyzing this play.
And you know what happened after that. LeBron hit the game winner. Should Hibbert have been in? Should he have been out? No one can know for sure.
But ultimately, the Pacers have to feel pretty good going into game 2. They hung in with the best team in the league. Everyone is saying “this was the Pacers only chance to steal one”. Well they’ve got another chance tonight. Tonight they need to take advantage of every opportunity. If they can do that things will start looking pretty bright heading back to Indiana for game 3.