Sustainable or Not Sustainable: What Can the Pacers Take Away from Game 1?

May 22, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird in the stands during game 5 of the 2012 NBA eastern conference semi-finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESS WIRE
May 22, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird in the stands during game 5 of the 2012 NBA eastern conference semi-finals at the American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESS WIRE /

The Pacers controlled Sunday’s Game 1 from start to finish, never trailing and leading at one point in the second half by 19 points. The Pacers featured a balanced attack, as all five Indiana starters scored at least 15 points and the collective shot better than 50% from the field. Defensively, there were some issues, but it’s hard to complain after such a dominating effort.

More important than nitpicking where the Pacers could have done better in Game 1 is figuring out which parts of their performance are sustainable over the rest of the series.

Pacers’ 3-point Shooting: Probably Sustainable

As the first half wound to a close, Heat fans across the country whined that the Pacers were simply “making every shot” and that they would undoubtedly regress back towards the mean in the second half.

Indeed, the Pacers had gotten off to a hot start, opening the game 6-of-8 from long distance en route to a 10-point halftime lead. In the second half, the Pacers did cool off, finishing the game 8-of-19 from beyond the arc, good for 42%.

While it is unlikely that the Pacers will once again start another game shooting that well from long distance (or any distance, really), it’s important to note that their 42% effort from downtown wasn’t that far off from their playoff mark of 38% coming into the game. Perhaps more important is that all but one of their first eight 3-pointers were of the wide open variety. NBA players will make open jumpers more than they will miss them, and while George Hill and Paul George may have been shooting a little over their heads, it’s not like they were making difficult shots.

While it’s definitely possible that Indiana drops off a little bit from long range in subsequent games, it seems more plausible that the effort they got in Game 1 should continue, as it has for most of the 2014 Playoffs.

Dwyane Wade’s Midrange Success: Probably NOT Sustainable

Far flukier than the Pacers’ 3-point shooting was the return of 2010 Dwyane Wade in Game 1. After shooting just 23-of-59 from outside the paint in the playoffs so far (39%), Wade shot 60% on Sunday afternoon, with many shots coming over the outstretched arms of Lance Stephenson.

Dwyane Wade's Shot Chart from Game 1
Dwyane Wade’s Shot Chart from Game 1 /

Overall, Wade connected on 7 of the 12 contested field-goal attempts he took on Sunday afternoon, a mark that is probably not sustainable over the long haul.

Wade also did this in 39 minutes of action, an increase from the 33 minutes a night he had been seeing so far in the playoffs.

It didn’t appear that Lance did anything to “make Wade’s knee flare up” at all during Game 1, but unless Wade truly has been saving an extra gear in Rounds 1 and 2, Wade most likely won’t be able to continue his torrid shooting throughout the rest of this series.

Pacers’ Free-Throw Advantage: Probably NOT Sustainable

The Pacers shot 22 more free throws than the Heat in Game 1, making 29 to Miami’s 10. The 19-point disparity was far and away Indiana’s largest of the postseason, and the 37 attempts were 8 higher than their previous playoff high. As for the Heat, their 15 attempts were their lowest output of the playoffs. LeBron himself has twice shot more free throws in a game this postseason, and their 10 makes was their weakest effort in months.

While the Heat don’t exactly attack the basket like they once did when Wade was younger and healthier, coming into the game, each team was averaging about 18 made free throws, on 24 attempts, per game in the playoffs. A disparity the likes of what we saw in Game 1 is most likely an aberration — especially when the series moves to Miami in Games 3 and 4. If anything, the laws of averages say that the free-throw totals may swing the other way in the next few games.

Invisible Chris Bosh: Possibly Sustainable

No matter how you slice it, Chris Bosh had a lousy Game 1. Defensively, he wasn’t able to contain Roy Hibbert or David West, as they combined for 38 points on 53% shooting. Obviously, not all of those points were scored against Bosh, but the tallest member of the Big Three wasn’t able to offer much resistance to either Pacer throughout the game. He finished with 0 blocks and only 2 rebounds — numbers that would make Round 1 Roy Hibbert blush.

It was worse on the offensive end. Bosh struggled all night, shooting only 4-of-12 while missing all 5 of his 3-point attempts. Perhaps worse than the raw numbers was the fact that he only made 1 of his 9 “uncontested shots” according to the SportVU cameras from the game.

Bosh’s poor shooting was indicative of Miami’s night overall.

The team combined to make just 16 of its 38 uncontested field goals, good for a paltry 42%. As Vogel said in the post-game press conference, the Heat made a ton of tough shots but missed a lot of easy ones, probably resulting in neither a net-win nor net loss for either team.

Bosh is a much better shooter than what he showed in Game 1, and it’s unlikely he will miss so many open shots again. Still, since Game 4 of last season, Bosh has been downright invisible against the Pacers. Over that span, he’s averaged 9.1 points and 4.7 rebounds on 34% shooting while going only 7-for-26 from 3-point range. Maybe he’s just had nine really bad games against Indiana, or maybe the combination of having to work on the defensive end and then shooting over the outstretched hands of Hibbert and West just make it really hard for any big man to stay successful.

Don’t expect Chris Bosh to keep missing as many open looks as he did in Game 1, but don’t expect him to turn into Karl Malone anytime either.

Miami’s Poor Corner 3-pt Shooting: Possibly Sustainable

This is the classic example of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. In the regular season, Miami shot almost 43% on corner threes. In the playoffs, that number had fallen slightly as defenses improved, but the Heat were still hitting 40% from the corners on almost 8 attempts per game.

On the other side of the ball, Indiana prides itself on limiting the corner three, holding its opponents to only 26% shooting in the playoffs.

Miami 3-pt Shooting Game 1
Miami 3-point Shooting, Game 1 /

In Game 1, the Heat were shut out, missing all six of their corner-3 attempts. Ray Allen and Chris Bosh will almost certainly connect on some corner 3-pointers in Game 2 and onward, but Indiana does place a high priority on defending that area of the floor, and they will probably be able to keep Miami under its average. It seems reasonable to expect Miami to finish the series in the 30%-35% range from there which, all things considered, would be a win for the Pacers.

The Other Factors

Of course, these weren’t the only reasons for the Pacers’ Game 1 success. The Lance Stephenson pick and roll was unstoppable for most of the game, and the Heat’s defensive adjustment to it in Game 2 will almost certainly be the biggest turning point early in the series.

Coach Spoelstra’s curious selection of Shane Battier in the starting lineup will most likely be different as well. Rather than chase Paul George around all night on the defensive end (an undesirable option to be sure), LeBron James was stuck banging in the post with David West on defense throughout much of the first half (a far more undesirable option) as the Pacers’ raced out to an early lead. Udonis Haslem is probably the Heat’s best bet in the starting lineup next to Bosh against Indiana. His presence not only minimizes the pounding on James, but he’s also probably Miami’s best individual Roy Hibbert defender.

These adjustments, as well as others, will define Game 2 and the series going forward. But outside of a bunch of Indiana free throws and some prolific Dwyane Wade midrange shooting, much of this series may proceed as it commenced.