Paul George was excellent in the first two games of the series, while George Hill remembered to make himself noticed in the second. Yet most of the attention has been about the presence of Roy Hibbert when he was on and off the court, and that seems to have been the difference between a win in game 2 and the loss in game 1.
There’s no doubt that Hibbert’s presence makes a huge difference in the way the Heat play their possessions. They attack the basket a lot more when he’s off the court, making the most of the tallest man in the Eastern conference taking a much needed rest. But the Heat are good enough as a team that makes adjustments, and as a team with quite a few very talented individuals, specifically one, to figure out how to not let Hibbert destroy them in the series.
Once again, Paul George is doing great, scoring 24.5 points on 50% from the field so far this series, doing most of those while LeBron James is guarding him. George Hill scored 19 points for the Pacers in game 2, bringing back his pick & roll game that gave the New York Knicks so much trouble in the conference semifinals.
But the Heat can live with their contributions, if they find a way to take Hibbert out of the lane, and out of the game. If the Pacers continue relying on their starting center like they have up until now, which means about 40 minutes each night, he’s not going to be as effective for much longer. He usually tired in the second half anyway, and after 80 minutes through the first two games, cracks might be starting to show as soon as game 3.
Right now, it feels like the Pacers have got the Heat right where they want them – 1-1, and playing two games in Indianapolis. But going with the same game-plan again and again, as effective as it was in the first two games, led them to a situation in which the Miami Heat have the final ball more than once, with their destiny in their hands. James simply made a mistake he’s not likely to make again in such a short span of time.
And that’s where Frank Vogel’s real worth, and the Pacers’ real strength, will be revealed. How they play once Roy Hibbert isn’t as effective as he was earlier in the series, which is bound to happen at some point. Will they fold because they’ll turn into offensive stagnation, like they have during many parts of this season, especially when the rise in minutes seemed to be too much of a burden for some players late in the season?
Or will they show that this season is different, and the Indiana Pacers are possibly a better team than the Miami Heat for more than one reason, and for more than just one game.