Post-Game Grades: Pacers Defeat the 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.