There’s no bench for the Indiana Pacers, it’s all about the starting five. While David West has been the consistent factor and Roy Hibbert has been the most important one, Paul George, George Hill and Lance Stephenson haven’t been too trustworthy in their offensive and defensive production, and on the verge of elimination, that issue needs to be dealt with.
Frank Vogel is still confident, but in game 5, he saw his team fold in the second half, and not for the first time in the postseason. They bounced right back from the first time, but it’s harder and harder making those motivational and ability switches time and time again, especially with the Miami Heat seemingly comfortable being the team that’s sitting behind for most of the games so far before coming back run after run, while the Pacers usually struggle to put them away.
For example: The Pacers won the first quarter in game 5, 23-19. For some reason, they felt like it was a lot more. Paul George and Roy Hibbert scored all those 23 points, which added to a sense of greatness to the whole moment, but looking back at this series, it’s been much more about George Hill or Lance Stephenson stepping up, proving the points the Heat don’t account for, than Hibbert or George being All-starish.
Because the Heat can’t stop Hibbert. They can make life very hard for him and eventually wear him down, but it comes at a cost on the defensive end, slowing down their ability to chase down ball movement and limiting their traps and risk taking factor which is usually what they live and breathe on. It creates less opportunities for them to go on fast breaks, and their transition game, which is the best in the NBA, has fallen in terms of repetitiveness. Just over 13% of their possessions in the regular season were transition offense, but there’s a reason the Pacers were the second best transition defense team in the NBA, and have managed to bring the Heat’s transition part in the pie down to 8.2%, although they’re still scoring 1.36 points per possession.
But the Heat can stop Lance Stephenson and George Hill, because the two guards are making it very easy for them. Stephenson fouled out in the previous game, and he’s probably the best example of the over-confidence Frank Vogel is sending out to his team. Disrespectful and borderline dirty in his plays, Stephenson is taking that combative edge a bit too far, and losing his head in the game all the while. He’s shooting 35.2% from the field in the series, and has gotten away from the team-oriented game too often, trying to prove he can steamroll his way to the basket again and again, actually making it work only once.
George Hill makes the Pacers Pick & Roll and great thing to watch, making it a much bigger part of the team’s offense than it was in the regular season. The only player who has been effective in isolation plays has been Paul George (1.10 points per possession), while the rest hover around the 0.7 mark, with Stephenson dragging the team down to 0.5, although he’s trying it more than anyone.
Pick & Roll means more touches to Hibbert and David West, yet the Pacers seem to find themselves too many times getting away from their most surefire way of getting points on the board or dismantling the defensive scheme of the Heat, which has been troubling them all series long, once they have to break out of character and try to rebound against a Hibbert miss, creating all kinds of opportunities for others.
Paul George is the team’s most talented player, while Roy Hibbert has been the most effective. Yet it’s going to be about X-factors coming through, and for Indiana it means their two guards making less mistakes and bad decisions when it comes to offense than they did throughout most of this series.