Post-Game Grades: Pacers Defeat the Heat

Roy Hibbert Heat

Indiana just made another major leap forward in its quest to win a title. It’s not like everybody didn’t know already, but now? Everybody knows. This team is the team that can shutdown anyone.

Yeah, the Pacers spanked the Spurs in San Antonio, but the Thunder game where they sharked themselves sorta took all the shine off that. But by beating Miami, they have sincerely convinced everybody — the sportswriters, Indiana’s fans, the Heat, themselves — that they might just be the best team in the league. Right now, certainly, but also in June. It’s just a December regular season game, but this did mean something. As much as a December regular season game between the only two professional basketball teams in the Eastern Conference can mean anyway.

As for what happened in this game, there was a ton of good (the victory, the resilience, the ability to keep Miami from scoring) but plenty of bad around the edges. It takes only a glance at the quarter-by-quarter point totals to see what happened: Miami owned the game early but Indiana made up some ground in the second (largely in the final few minutes of the quarter) then took control in the third and put it away after that. The defense was good — and on some key possessions, like this one, great — but we also just saw Miami miss a lot of open looks from three-point range. This was especially true early on, when the Heat could have jumped out to an even larger lead.

So it must be noted that some of this lack of scoring by Miami was just bad offense and bad shot making. You can’t sneeze at holding the league’s second best offense to 54 points over the final 36 minutes though (a per-48 pace of 72 points).

Roy Hibbert played huge on both ends, Paul George recovered from a terrible first half to handle the scoring load when it was needed most, David West made some big plays, and Lance Stephenson showed his fabulous playmaking and vision.

There were too many turnovers. Oh too many.

But the defense didn’t slump after a rocky start and Miami’s big three scored just 46 points on 42 shots. Turnovers be damned, if the Pacers can keep the Heat’s stars to such low efficiency while also not watching the role players light it up from long range, they should win the majority of their matchups with the reigning back-to-back champs.

And there will be more matchups. Oh, will there ever be.

Closing note: I’m a tired, tired boy right now, so forgive me, but no grades will be handed out tonight. Or if you really need them then everybody gets an A. Except George Hill, who was bad on both ends and largely sleep walking through large chunks of the action. (Ian Mahinmi can take a D also.)

Instead, here are some random game notes.

  • Indiana had 22 assists on 34 made field goals. Four players (all of the starters except Hibbert) had at least 4 assists apiece.
  • Indiana attempted 10 fewer shots than Miami. This was largely due to turnovers (the Pacers have 21 to the Heat’s 12), but also somewhat because of free throws (the Pacers took 25 to the Heat’s 20). It could have been an even larger disparity if Indiana hadn’t been so good on the defensive glass; on 44 missed field goals, the Heat only managed 6 offensive boards.
  • Miami almost always wins when they force that many turnovers. Couper Moreland noted: “This was Miami’s third loss since the Summer of 2010 when forcing 20+ turnovers. They are now 25-3 in those games.” He also added this: “Pacers had 20+ turnovers in Games 1 and 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last year, as well as Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Semi’s.” For those who don’t remember, those three games were all critical Pacers loses to the Heat, and it really says something that they could win a game when they coughed the ball up 21 times, leading to 20 Heat points.
  • Miami missed a ton of threes. Many were open, yet they still shot just 4-for-21 from behind the arc. Tom Haberstroh dropped this little data nugget: “The Heat have shot 20+ threes 112 times in the Big Three era. Tonight was their single worst percentage: 19 percent.”
  • Indiana’s big three tonight (Hibbert, George, West) scored 58 points on 34 shots. As noted above, that is on contrast to Miami’s big three production of 46 points on 42 shots.
  • This wasn’t quite as dramatic of a comeback as the win in San Antonio, but Indiana outscored Miami 71-54 over the final three quarters.
  • If there aren’t any major injuries to either team, this will be your Eastern Conference Finals matchup again.

Tags: Game Recap

  • Ian Cullen

    CJ Watson gets a ‘+’ after his A, right?

    • ConRich

      ^seconded. Can’t imagine D.J. Augustin picking up George Hill’s slack.

  • Realist

    I’ll have a lazy crack…

    West = B+
    George = B
    Hibbert = A+
    Hill = B- (5/8/6, 50% fg, 2 steals, only 1 TO out of 21, I think D is a bit harsh)
    Lance = A

    Scola = A-
    Ian = D
    Watson = A
    OJ = C

    Every time OJ shoots, I keep thinking it’s okay, Danny will be back soon.

    • thechamp5400

      West: A-
      George: B-
      Hibbert: A
      Hill: B-
      Lance: A-
      Scola: B (Could have been better but wasn’t much involved)
      Mahinmi: D-
      Watson: B
      Johnson: C+

  • Ian

    Battier has been struggling from 3 all season so getting worked up about his open shots isn’t really necessary. But I did think the Pacers (especially Paul George) let their offensive struggles affect their defense in the first quarter. There were several plays where PG looked distracted on defense after a bad play at the other end.

    The turnovers were painful, mostly because so many were just bad or lazy passes rather than Heat pressure. The Pacers should have been expecting the trap and double on George as its exactly what the Heat did when they played the Bulls with Derrick Rose earlier this season. It’s good that PG figured out how to play through it in the 2nd half.

    Miami was totally gassed by the end of that game. LeBron looked like he was struggling with his fitness pretty much from the late 1st quarter onwards. The announcers mentioned his back but I wonder if there might have been something else going on, or it was just the effort of playing against the Pacer D that wore him out. He nearly had as many rebounds than the rest of the team!

    Watson was clutch, he looked extremely confident on the ball, more so than I have ever seen him. I don’t know what is going on with George Hill he has not looked sharp the last two weeks.

    A friend of mine had a terrifying thought. Udonis Haslem’s expiring and a 1st rounder to Phily for Spenser Hawes. Man I hope that doesn’t happen.

    • AMF1322

      Noel can grow with Hawes, and then Hawes can become a great backup C for them. Also, I don’t think they’re going to get Embiid in the draft.

      • Ian

        Er, Hawes is on an expiring deal, and the Sixers really do want to tank regardless of what has happened so far this season. Even most Phily analysts think Hawes will be traded and right now he’d demand a bigger contract to resign. I think the only reasons that deal doesn’t happen is 1) the Sixers get a better offer, 2) the Heat refuse to trade Haslem due to his long service with the club.

  • 15points126seconds

    gonna repost this here bc i want to hear y’alls perspective on the coaching and/or gunning for the #1 seed. History shows Miami doesn’t need it, game 7 shows maybe we do

    lol, i know I’m drinkin’ the Kool-Aid, but… dare i say it…we are on pace… for… 71 wins :D.
    OK OK, obviously theres no way we’ll get there, but the fact is after Houston and Miami next week we don’t have another “tough” matchup (in which we aren’t the overwhelming favorites) until Feb at home against the Blazers (or arguably @home against the Clips in Jan). We’ll definitely have a couple bad shooting nights against a hot team, but the way Vogel runs this team with every player buying in to the “all in for the next game” mentality, I’m confident we’ll get the #1 seed. Just worried that Frank might turn into Thibs and overplay our starters so we’re gassed and/or injury prone by May (remember the healthy ’11 62-win bulls team that swept the heat in the reg season but lost in 5 in the playoffs?)

    • Jack Wright

      Honestly I don’t even think we’d need the #1 seed to get past the Heat. But against the Thunder in the finals, the overall #1 seed could prove very helpful. Win as many games as we can.. That should be and is our goal for the regular season.

      Also I’m not even sure I buy into the concept of players getting “gassed” over an entire season. But let’s say there is some truth to it, I’m still not concerned. I wouldn’t even put PG or Lance into this conversation. Scola gives West plenty of rest. Same with Watson for Hill. Hibbert isn’t overplayed that I’ve noticed.

      • Josh

        This is a great point. I think the depth of the bench will allow Frank Vogel to rest his starters longer throughout the year. Don’t forget, Granger is coming back. When that happens, I can see 3 starters playing less than 30 minutes per game in certain games. Especially with such a weak East.

  • Jack Wright

    I think we shook off all our nerves of playing the Heat in the 1st half. Wouldn’t be surprised if this game ends up being our worst performance against the Heat all season.

  • Jack Wright

    DJ Augustin to the Bulls. I’m happy for him, and I think it’s good for both sides. He wasn’t nearly as bad as a lot of Pacers fans acted like.

    • Ian

      DJ was a very bad fit for the Pacers system. He was too small to fit into the ‘everyone must guard their man without help’ philosophy. He also really struggled bringing the ball up against the pressure by the Heat.

      Watson is much bigger and handles pressure better, even though he’s not quite as creative as DJ was.

      I think DJ is better equipped to play in the West on some of the more free styling teams. But even then I worry he is both too small and not quick enough.

      • Jack Wright

        Wasn’t trying to compare him to Watson. Watson clearly > DJ. But if someone were to ask me why our bench was so bad last year, DJ would be about the 5th player I’d name, probably after Sam Young, Hansbrough, Pendergraph and G Green. His 3pt was the most reliable on our team (atleast I thought — not sure about the exact stats) and in the playoffs he actually started making shots near the rim.

        • Philip Tarrant

          Thanks for reminding me to be thankful that we managed to unload Gerald in obtaining Scola.

  • John Allen Reave

    Regarding injuries: Oden and Granger will probably figure in the ECF. That’ll change things some.

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