After the game 3 loss, the Indiana Pacers needed someone else and something new to add to their constant plan of building on Roy Hibbert. In game 4, they got it from Lance Stephenson, providing his best game of the series so far by simply raising the level of aggression and intensity to something the players in front of him simply couldn’t match.
In a weird game that saw LeBron James foul out on an offensive foul call that hardly gets blown by anyone these days and tons of other official mistakes led by the incompetent Joey Crawford, the Indiana Pacers were the ones in control for most of the 48 minutes, and eventually pulling away late in the game to tie the series at 2-2 with a 99-92 win.
The Pacers needed adjustments, and they got it on both ends of the floor. A lot more passing to Roy Hibbert as long as he wasn’t too exhausted, which resulted in 23 points and 6 offensive rebounds out of his 12, while Lance Stephenson and George Hill came up big time, but not through any team-oriented playing. Most of Stephenson’s shots were simply about putting his head down and driving to the basket, which worked on 60% of the time, finishing with a series-high (for him) 20 points.
George Hill had many bad moments in the game, including during the the third quarter in which he insisted to keep on trying to use his size to find a way into the paint, ending up missing or turning over the ball on three consecutive possessions. This brought the Heat once more into the game after already being down by 9, eventually turning the tide and grabbing a three point lead off a crazy Ray Allen three late in the fourth (89-86).
But from that moment, it was all Indiana, as the Heat went on 1-of-9 during the final five minutes, with their average shot distance being 22.8 feet away from the basket. As LeBron James left the game Indiana had a four point lead, and a lot more hope that they weren’t going to see another Heat surge coming their way.
The Pacers were a lot more aggressive in game 4, which showed every time LeBron James tried to post up on Paul George. The Pacers sent help a lot quicker this time, forcing James to pass, and for others to try and win the game. The Heat shot only 39% from the field, as Ray Allen was especially terrible, finishing with 4-of-13, while the injured Chris Bosh was hardly felt all night, hitting only one-of-six from the field. The Heat weren’t nearly as hot-handed as they were in the previous game, forced to take too many spot up shots and averaging only 0.46 points per possession on those plays.
On offense, it was about driving to the basket again and again. Stephenson scored 9 points on those drives, and the Pacers as a team were 11-of-17 on those possessions. The Heat kept looking disorganized from the first minute of the game (which began with an 11-0 run), and were lifted every time the Pacers offense, not the most systematic thing in the world, collapsed during certain stretches.
The Pacers now have another player they can trust in to have a big game, once again getting almost all of their points from the bench. Roy Hibbert continues to be a game-changing force in this series, and having the uber-aggressive Lance Stephenson wreck havoc alongside him is almost like something the Heat never expected to happen.