Post-Game Grades: Indiana Comes Up Just Short in Miami

paul george heat

In the very early going, this one looked like it was destined to go Miami’s way. Indiana was turned the ball over at an alarming rate in a bevy of embarrassing ways. The Heat were getting the type of easy, run-out buckets that usually seal the fate of their opponents. Moreover, they weren’t even having to take risky shots from the perimeter; their first 14 points all came in the paint.

Oddly enough, however, this didn’t give them much of an advantage.

The Pacers stayed right there, and in fact pulled ahead. Hibbert got in some foul trouble (two in the first quarter), but so did Chris Bosh and LeBron James (two apiece in the opening period) so the trade off seemed like it might be worth it.

With the turnovers under control, half their shots falling, and Miami getting a grand total of zero combined points from the free-throw line, three-point arc and offensive glass, Indiana was looking good.

They took a 26-22 lead into the second quarter. Better still, the bench extended that advantage as Luis Scola and Rasual Butler added some firepower off the bench. LeBron and Dwyane Wade continued to make plays for Miami, but no other Heat players looked threatening while Paul George and George Hill signed their names to the long list of Pacers who were contributing to this potential upset.

All looked wonderful.

But after the break, Hibbert soon picked up his fourth foul. It didn’t seem like a big blow, as Indiana was in control with an 11-point lead and Ian Mahinmi had played adequately earlier while Roy rested in foul trouble.

But instead of telling the big guy to take a seat, Frank Vogel kept him in the game. You could clearly see him look towards his team and point to his head soon after, seeming to let Hibbert know that he had to play smart now and avoid picking up a fifth foul. Roy ignored that warning and picked up that fifth foul seconds later. So it was off to the bench, where he would stew for the next 14 minutes of game action.

Miami shot 8-for-13 (61.5%) over the final 8 minutes of the third, not erasing Indiana’s lead but carving a big chunk out of it and settling into a comfort zone. They made 5-of-6 shots in the paint in the period while Hibbert sat out.

Here is how Miami shot during that stretch.

hibbert rest

Fortunately for the Pacers, David West and George had it going. Each played the entire quarter, as West abused Miami’s “power” forwards while Paul George hit a pair of threes and some points from the line. There wasn’t much in the way of complex offense or clever sets; this was just two guys exploiting advantages and defensive weaknesses to make plays.

Damage had been done though.

The Heat’s offense was vibing, and it was starting to feel much more like a game from the Eastern Conference Finals that could go either way rather than one that the away team was in control of. Then it began to feel like the Heat had an edge, especially as LeBron started rolling and invigorated the crowd when he left Scola standing still on his way to a ferocious dunk at the rim.

But you have to give the Pacers credit. They didn’t yield completely, even as their rim protector sat on the sidelines. They dug in and started to again play high level defense as the deciding quarter began. On the other end, sloppiest began to re-rear its ugly head in the form of turnovers, but even if they weren’t playing well, they were playing well enough to steal one, even in Florida, even as the game increasingly grew more chaotic and frenzied.

The bad news was that Wade kept up the consistent scoring he had brought his team all night, adding 9 points in the fourth. He was measured and selective most of the night while attacking but made the most of the opportunities he found in the defense. Especially in transition, which Miami was able to create even late when the game normally slows down. On several occasions, they were able to break out for easy points.

Despite all this, Indiana led with two minutes to go. 92-89.

Miami would hit two more shots, a three from Chris Bosh in the half court as West left his man to double LeBron and another triple from Ray Allen on the break. Each was devastating and caused the building to erupt in ways you rarely see before Christmas in this league.

For the Pacers, there would be no more hoops. West missed a short and easy (for-him) jumper after some nice ball-sharing, George salvaged an awful offensive set by getting into the lane and missing a difficult (for him) floater that led to the break-out Allen trey, and a miscommunication on a baseline drive-and-kick attempt from George Hill to Paul George ended another possession in a turnover.

It could have gone either way, and with two minutes left, it looked like Indiana should have been the one to tip the scales. But they didn’t make any more plays and the Heat did.

Of course, even following the two threes (each of which can be blamed on defensive breakdowns in one way or another) and the two wasted possessions by Indiana, there was some hope. Allen knocked down a pair of free throws after the Hill turnover, there was still 10 seconds remaining with Indiana down three.

They had time for one last shot. They didn’t get the best of looks, but Paul George rose up to try to tie it anyway. And after watching what he did in the Portland game, he could have been blindfolded and I still wouldn’t have been surprised for him to make it.

He missed. Though he certainly got fouled by LeBron James.

It’s a crappy way for the game to end, but it happens. The Pacers had all the chances in the world to not let something like that impact the game, however, so they still have to blame themselves first and foremost. The offense down the stretch was ineffective and the defense often wasn’t up to par. Maybe George (who played the whole second half) and others were tired. Maybe Miami is just really good. Maybe the whole aura of the game changed after Vogel made the, in retrospect, poor decision to risk a fifth foul on Hibbert in the third.

Regardless, Miami was the better team for the bulk of the final 24 minutes and they were the ones that, perhaps with a bit of help from the refs, were able to outlast their opponents.

The regular season series between the two best teams in the East is now knotted at 1-1.

Hopefully we’ll get to watch these squads square off 7 more times this year.

Because bad play down the stretch or not — bad calls or not — that was fun to watch.

Topics: Game Recap

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  • wesmont

    It looked like both teams were exhausted from the outset.The entire game looked like it was in slow motion.I love our team ,but I must say,Paul George is not a superstar until he stops making those hopeless passes.3 or 4 in this game that were beyond pathetic.Just weak ,lame ,right to them.Hard to stomach a player of his talent making those weak,inept passes.Of course he guards Le Bron or Wade the whole game and plays 40 minutes….

  • Ian

    Lots went wrong in this game. The worst part about Roy’s foul trouble was that it was largely his fault. He made several stupid plays on balls he had no chance blocking and were guaranteed to get fouls, especially the last two. Not the Roy we are used to seeing. Lets not forget Roy averages like 20 ppg against the Heat. That was the real difference tonight.

    I was puzzled why George Hill was playing playmaker on that last playcall that resulted in a turnover. Lance as we all see is better at breaking down the D, and it also allows GH to set up as a spot up shooter, something he’s genuinely good at.

    Finally, the foul on George was clearly a foul, the announcing team agreed. Doesn’t matter, the Pacers lost that game because of other stuff, not the foul. Still, it stings for one reason for me: It was clearly intentional by LeBron. He felt he could get away with it because of congestion in the lane, he had his hands on George the whole time from the move to the shot itself, and figured he could give him a little nudge to throw him off, which he did. A dirty play by a great player.

    • Earl Malmsteen

      The biggest problem on the George Hill play imo was that Roy/PG didn’t execute the screen on the left side properly. That allowed LeBron to get around the pick pretty easily. If Roy and PG rub shoulders there, PG gets an open corner 3. Hill got into the lane and I thought made the correct play given what they were running.

      I wouldn’t have minded Lance running the play either but I think that’s secondary to not getting your best player free for an open shot.

      • Ian

        I feel like the Pacer’s biggest weakness is the inability to create penetration off the pick and roll. They are good at creating pick and pop scenarios, but if the defender stays with screener, the ball handler has trouble creating, either by attempting to score or dishing to an open 3 point shooter. This is a fundamental part of all of the best offenses in the NBA. PG doesn’t have quite the gift for finding open shooters and isn’t big enough to take a regular pounding in the lane. GH isn’t a natural point and even though he gets good spacing on the P&R, his midrange jumper off the dribble has completely abandoned him (I think he missed at least 3 uncontested ones in the game). Lance is about the closest to being able to pull it off. The Pacers need to keep trying to generate offense that way because its one of the few plays that work against a top notch defense.

        • Earl Malmsteen

          yeah I agree w all that. I just think on that last play the problem wasn’t that they didn’t get penetration (GH got into the lane after all). In general though I agree with you, though I’m not sure there’s much they can do about it with their personnel.

  • Earl Malmsteen

    As others have said, clear foul on the last shot but a wiley play by LeBron, especially at home.

    The thing that MIA seems to burn the Pacers with is pressuring the ball out 30 feet from the basket against our weak ballhandlers. They even seem to do it on Ian and Roy out at the top of the key and I think that is disrupting our offense. Lots of empty possessions where the Pacers don’t get the ball inside the 3 pt line until 5 seconds left on the clock and then throw up a bad shot or get it stolen. Those kind of empty possessions need to be limited. Both the big MIA runs in the second half were aided by those kinds of possessions, and Lance/West bailed them out of a couple more with very difficult shots out of iso’s as well. Just like Roy/West’s size is MIA’s kryptonite, same goes for MIA’s high pressure perimeter D against the Pacers’ ballhandlers.

  • Joe Betz

    The Silver-Lining: In game one, the Pacers turned the ball over 21 times and still won comfortably; in game two, the Pacers had minimal offense or defense from Hibbert and should have won. West is right to say there are no moral victories in the NBA, but it’s a moral victory in my book and shows how much better the Pacers are as a team this year, even without Granger back.

  • lil-bang

    The most concerning thing to me about this game is the final offensive plays for the Pacers. Two plays in a row and you don’t even get a good look after you have timeouts and time to setup plays? I am unsure if it is execution or if it is play calling but it has been a problem for the Pacers for years. Last year in the ECF finals when PG got fouled on that 3, he was around 30 feet out and didnt even get a clean look.
    Paul George, George Hill, and Lance were on the court and you have 10 seconds on the clock, how can you not get a play where one has a clean look…also why are Hibbert and West in the game then? Copeland and Butler should have been in, you need a 3 and Copeland has some RANGE…
    If the Pacers don’t figure out some better plays out of timeouts, then they will lose to Miami again in the ECF, because a game or 2 will come down to the final play. You can’t lose a 1 point game to Miami and expect to beat them in a series…just ask the Spurs, and go look at the ECF from last year.
    Hard to complain with a 20-5 record, but I think the best chance for the Pacers to win a championship is this year with Stephenson’s and Granger’s futures questionable.
    GO PACERS!!!

    • Jack Wright

      We want our starters in the game in that situation.

    • Earl Malmsteen

      PG got a pretty good look in this game but got fouled which wasn’t called. Last year is last year. The Pacers have been lacking a guy who can create off the dribble, and PG is definitely getting there but is still getting a little caught up when quick teams like MIA trap him. He’ll figure that out though I think.

  • Jack Wright

    Try not to get your panties in a wad people. We’re not gonna have much trouble beating the Heat in the playoffs. (Over in 6 games I think..?) I’m more worried about the Thunder. But we’re just better than the Heat, and it will be clear come playoff time.

  • rohanissimus

    How come no one complains about the 2 free throws he suckered the refs into calling on that amazing flop? Every Indiana fan is up in arms on the alleged no call at the end, but quite happy that the same player snookered the refs earlier and so increased the Pacers score by 2 points. Fans are just the same every where they can only view events through team colored lenses.

    • Realist

      Because Dwyane Wade is the biggest piece of shit in the NBA? I’d frame him too if I could.

    • Adam Stout

      At least Paul’s “flop” was a reaction to contact that actually happened. Yes, he over exaggerated to sell the contact, and the contact wasn’t extreme, but his head was contacted by Wade’s arm, without question, and that absolutely constitutes a foul.

      • rohanissimus

        You really can’t be serious! You most certainly are confused. What you are describing is incidental contact on a guy who was just starting to dribble up court, not in a shooting act. By your definition most NBA games would be stopped every other minute for minor touch fouls. Did you notice all the Infiana hard contact that was allowed even when Miami was SHOOTING in the first half? Now you are saying even butterfly touches should be called in a team’s own back court? Who would want to watch that kind of sport? You are confused, because greater physical contact occurs every minute during pick and roll. The refs blew the whistle because George tricked them. I’m not moaning about it because it’s a part of the modern game and practiced by all. But c’mon man be reasonable. Don’t celebrate the the 2 points accrued through the flop, then moan about the non call on the same player at the end. Calls even out, you can’t have it both ways. You think only one team deserves all the breaks all the time? The reason I almost never comment on boards is because fans check logic at the door and become extremely biased and irrational. I choose to believe they are not that way when not moved by insane passion for their teams. Maybe I’m being too generous.

        • Adam Stout

          I think you have a skewed understanding if incidental contact. Two players diving for a loose ball and colliding would be a good example of incidental contact (and fouls are frequently called in such situations, btw). A player swiping for the ball and in the process hitting the player grabbing the ball is not incidental contact. That’s a foul. I’m bit disputing that the contact was minor, or that Paul oversold it; I’m just stating that it was clearly a foul, and not incidental contact. He shot free throws because Miami was in the penalty.

          The contact on the last plat which was not called was also clearly a foul, without a doubt. It should have been called. As should the push on CJ Watson that resulted in a backcourt violation and led to three points for Miami.

          There were certainly calls in the game that favored Indy; every game has a handful of bad calls both ways. But fiend the stretch, most of the bad calls went on Miami’s favor, and they most certainly got a huge superstar break on the non-call at the end.

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