(After Game 2, Team Rebound ran a great breakdown of how the Pacers used the pick and roll, specifically with Roy Hibbert as the screener, to get a lot of interior buckets. We asked Team Rebound to watch for the same in Game 3. Here are the findings.)
It did not take long for Miami to adjust on the Pacers pick and roll. In Game 2, the Pacers gashed the Heat to the tune of 1.33 points per possession on 12 plays where the roll man finished the play. This included Roy Hibbert either scoring or getting fouled on all 7 of the plays where he took a shot as the roll man. In Game 3 the Heat completely shut down the Pacers roll man, allowing only 0.6 points per possession, according to My Synergy Sports.* Even more importantly, the Heat only allowed the roll man to finish 5 plays. Four of these occurred in what was, as Marv Albert would put it, gar-bage time.
* It should be noted that the Pacers did draw 3 shooting fouls on those 5 possessions, so the PPP numbers are skewed downward by the fact they did not hit their free throws. The important thing is the number of attempts rather than the points, however.
Oftentimes if a defense adjusts to take away the roll man, the ball handler is able to exploit the fact that the man defending the screener stays close to his man or lurks in the paint. Not so with the Heat’s system, in which they regularly trap the pick and roll.* It is on the other three players to rotate off their man to take away the roll man, and they did so expertly in Game 3.
*The Heat gave up only 0.63 points per possession to the ball handler on 8 finished plays, according to Synergy.
When looking at Indiana’s Game 2 success with the pick and roll, I predicted that Miami would be more fastidious about taking away the roll man, at the potential expense of giving up open looks to the Pacer 3-point shooters.
That happened some.
In all three of these clips, a Heat player crashes in from the 3-point line to stop the roll man, leaving an open shooter. Here is the point at which I would normally tell you that these three clips are emblematic of the larger trend that allowed the Pacers to shoot 8-for-14 on threes for the night.*
The only problem: These three were the only 3-point attempts the Pacers got from pick and rolls all night. In Game 3, the Heat managed to stop the ball handler, the roll man, and 3-pointers out of the pick and roll.
It was a remarkable defensive performance.
* The Pacers shot 8-for-14 on 3s, but I would posit that this performance was significantly over their heads. Four of the makes by George, Stephenson, Hill, and D.J. Augustin were very difficult shots that would normally be classified as wins for the Miami defense.
Instead, the result was more often of this ilk.
The Heat rotated onto the roll man……..
…. while still getting out to open shooters.
As the clips show, another Heat adjustment (or Pacers regression) was forcing the pick to take place higher on the floor. This pushed the ball handler further away from direct passes to the shooters, while making the roll man less of a threat if he were to catch the ball further out.
This game might provide those who heralded the coming of Paul George as a superstar with some needed perspective.
George is an excellent defender and took a great leap forward with his shot creation this year. He has also looked fantastic blowing by LeBron James at times in this series.
However, he still has much improvement to make before he can be considered an elite offensive player capable of being a number-one option. George shot only 42% on the year, and his PER of 16.84 would render him below All-Star level were it not for his defense. George’s 3-of-10 shooting night with 5 turnovers was quite miserable. In particular, he proved unable to provide the sort of nuanced pick-and-roll playmaking the Pacers needed once the Heat took away his first read to the roll man in Game 3.
Despite the Heat’s dominant pick-and-roll defense, the Pacers were able to ride postups, offensive rebounds, and unsustainably hot shooting on 3-point spotups (8-for-11) to another solid offensive night against the Heat. But if the Pacers’ best-in-league defense continues to give up 70-point halves to the Heat, it will not matter what the team does offensively.