The Pacers had the 24th best offense in the NBA during the regular season, scoring 96.7 points per game. In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers scored 107 points, their highest output in regulation since February 25 against the lowly Lakers. The Miami Heat lacked energy, hustle, grit, and any other adjective that can describe some form of hustle. That’s not the winning formula to land Miami in their fourth straight NBA Final. It doesn’t matter the Pacers limped into the Eastern Conference Finals, they made it and now lead the series.
Every Pacers starter scored 15 or more points in Game 1, which was the first time this happened in the Pacers playoff history (per NBA.com). Miami will need to regroup and come out firing in Game 2 before they fall into a hole that could be too deep to climb out of. Per USA Today, the Game 1 victor in the conference finals is 21-9 since 1984. This might not be time to press the panic button, but the temperature is rising in South Beach. A Game 2 victory for the Heat would bring things back to normal and make the Heat seven victories closer to a three-peat.
Here are the three keys for the Miami Heat to win Game 2 and recapture the momentum of the Eastern Conference Finals
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1. Getting the other chess pieces moving
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were sensational in Game 1. Wade scored 27 points on 12-of-18 shooting while James added 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting. That’s 52 points combined, which was 52 percent of the team’s offense. If Wade and James are combining for over 50 percent of the Heat’s offense, both better be going off for 40-plus points. When Wade and James both score 25 more points, the Heat are 11-3 in playoff games all-time (per NBA.com). Besides Wade and James, the contributions were few and far between for Miami.
When Chris Andersen is the team’s third leading scorer, you know something went horribly wrong. Andersen scored 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting, turning in a better effort than Chris Bosh who scored nine points on 4-of-12 from the field with a Roy Hibbert-esque two rebounds. Besides the lackluster effort from Bosh, Mario Chalmers shot 2-of-9, while Norris Cole, James Jones and Udonis Haslem failed to score a point. Shane Battier only took one shot and Ray Allen was 2-of-9 from deep. To bring this into perspective, Wade and James outscored every single player on their team by eight points.
There’s no doubt Wade and James playing great basketball is a key to victory, but that’s a given. Everyone knows those two are going to bring it every night, and there isn’t going to be an empty column in their stat sheets. This deep in the playoffs, someone has to have a Mike Miller NBA Finals night, hitting three after three and stabbing the NBA Finals dreams of the Pacers right in the heart. It can’t all be on LeBron and Dwyane Wade, someone has to step up and space the floor for Miami (26 percent from deep in Game 1).
Click for two more keys for the Heat to even things up…
2. Playing with a sense of urgency
The Miami Heat walked into Bankers Life Fieldhouse during Game 1 and acted like everyone expected them to win. After the Pacers barely made it past Atlanta and Washington in the opening two rounds, the Heat thought this would be an easy trip to the NBA Finals. No matter what happened before this series, the world knows the Indiana Pacers have been waiting for a rematch versus the Heat after falling to them in the Conference Finals last season. With homecourt advantage on their side, Indiana looked more like the upstart team who was in the playoffs last season. Time will tell if Game 1 was a mirage or not, but the Heat need a reality check for Game 2.
The Heat played awful pick-and-roll defense the whole game, which is something they lay their hats on. Whether they drop the big back into the paint to thwart those short rolls of David West or Roy Hibbert, or they rush the ball handler like they do against other opponents, they’ve got to stop giving up easy buckets when the big man roles to the in-between space before the help defender.
All the members of the Pacers appeared to be on the same page, while the Heat didn’t even appear to be reading the same story. Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra provided some expert analysis after the Game 1 loss, via Ethan Skolnick with Bleacher Report:
“Our defense was unacceptable,” Bosh said.
“That’s probably us at our worst defensively,” Spoelstra added
The Heat have to come out firing on all cylinders at the start of Game 2. A statement has to be made before a dangerous Indiana teams gets just enough confidence to really believe they can win this series like they claim to already.
3. Slowing down the frontcourt of the Pacers
Roy Hibbert had to come alive at some point in the playoffs right? Hibbert is averaging 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game in the playoffs, but that wasn’t obvious in Game 1. All the Hibbert slander finally awoke a sleeping giant as the former Hoya big man crushed Bosh for 19 points, nine rebounds, and three assists. Hell, Hibbert might be worth a max contract if he can push Indiana into the NBA Finals. The Pacers are 6-0 in the playoffs when Hibbert scores 10-plus points, so it’s imperative Miami finds a plan to stop his easy points in the paint. Who ever thought that sentence could be typed with a serious face?.
Hibbert’s frontcourt mate, David West, went 8-of-12 from the field for 19 points, while grabbing seven rebounds and dishing three dimes. The Heat and defense weren’t anywhere on the same planet on Sunday night, which gives them a lot of places for improvement. However, slowing down Hibbert and West would be a great start. We’ve seen Hibbert get confused and disoriented against players like Paul Millsap and Marcin Gortat. Chris Bosh is one of the best power forwards in this league, so this shouldn’t be an issue. Bosh can’t let Hibbert and West roam around like the kings of the jungle, especially if he’s only going to score nine points.
The Heat may have to employ a double-, a triple-team, or bring everyone at them. The Pacers shot 51.5 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from three. The dominance of Hibbert and West gave shooters the green light from deep, as Paul George and George Hill both nailed three 3-pointers each. The Pacers dominated the Heat in Game 1, but a fluid Hibbert and West was a surprise. The Heat’s plan of attack should start in the paint, against a center whose looked like a sheep for most of the playoffs.
Who wins tonight?
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