Paul George was sensational last night in the fourth quarter, and that was the difference. LeBron being out so long with foul trouble certainly helped, but this game’s story is about King George, not King James.
There was another big factor, however, and it’s one in which several less-heralded Pacers can share in PG’s triumph.
The Pacers’ offense was potent in the second half. They made 22-of-43 shots (51.2%), and that was lovely, but the big outlier was how they crashed the offensive glass. On 21 missed shots, they grabbed 9 offensive boards, good for an offensive rebound rate of 39.1%.
This added 11 second-chance points to their bottom line, which is nice but not an unbelievable total. Still, all the extra shot clocks helped keep the ball out of the hands of Miami’s red-hot shooters for longer, and — along with a 9-2 turnover advantage in the half — led to the Pacers taking 4 more shots than the Heat on top of their 16-to-5 free-throw advantage. Even shooting poorly at the strip (68.8%), this was the difference in why Indiana was able to overcome Miami’s 10 treys in the half.
Of the 9 second-half ORBs, Roy Hibbert grabbed 4 himself, while David West and Lance Stephenson each had 2, and George Hill added 1. The most critical board of all, however, came with just over a minute left and the Pacers only leading by 1.
Chris Bosh had just banked in a 3 on the other end, so if the Pacers had come up empty and then watched Miami take the lead on the other end, it could have been an almost poetically comical way for Indiana’s tumultuous season to end.
Roy Hibbert had other ideas, though, and he helped his fishing buddy Paul further cement his legacy in Pacers’ lore.
After a rare Paul George miss (he shot 8-for-1o in the fourth), Hibbert grabbed the board and kicked it back out. He re-posted and got the rock, just as he has been publicly clamoring for ever since the Pacers started to relocate to Rock Bottom City. Rather than force a shot, however, he found George in the corner.
PG scorched the net, hitting his third 3 of the fourth, and putting the Pacers back up 4 — which was enough to hold off Miami and win.
This isn’t exactly Bosh grabbing an offensive board in Game 6 of the Finals last year to kick out for a 3. The stakes there were much higher, plus the rebound itself and, especially, the pass were much more difficult. But this was a great play by Hibbert, who now has 3 or more offensive boards in three of the five Eastern Conference Finals games played so far, to help keep Indiana’s season alive.
And it was refreshing in the sense that offensive rebounding used to be a big part of both Hibbert’s and the Pacers’ success, but is something that has gone away as the team has struggled.
During their worst stretch of futility in the regular season, I wrote about how important offensive rebounding had been to Indiana’s success in recent years.
Last season, the team played its best in the playoffs, and it was no coincidence that Indiana increased its regular season ORB% from 30.3% to 32.4% in the playoffs. In their 11 wins during the 2013 postseason, that number was even bigger, jumping to 34.1%. And last night, their full-game rate was 37.1%.
These may look like small upticks, but they are huge. Each bump leads to extra field goal attempts, which are critical for a team that often struggles to get a clean look in their first 24 seconds of trying.
Can Indiana beat the Heat two more times to advance to the Finals?
Probably not. But if they want to have a shot, they should prioritize dominating the offensive glass — and maybe spike Roy Hibbert’s Gatorade with methamphetamine.