From the first moment in this series, one glaring fact was being hidden by Paul George doing much better than expected on the offensive side, scoring 49 points in the first two games of the series. He can’t really stop LeBron James on his own, and eventually, the Indiana Pacers started paying for it, noticing it a bit too late.
George gives up more than 30 pounds in the head to head with James, and as the Heat began the game with incredible shooting that forced Roy Hibbert to move out of his comfort zone, it allowed James time after time to post up on George, who really had no chance guarding James like this. The Pacers allowed LeBron to dribble 4-5 seconds, backing up George towards the basket, without getting any help.
On the other end of the floor, the reason why George is yet to be considered a true superstar in this league came out. Superstars don’t have nights of 13 points while shooting 30% from the field, most of his misses coming when James took the reins and guarded him, and his inefficiency on offense (while the Pacers still scored 96 points, thanks to a long period of garbage time) suddenly couldn’t hide his problems with James.
Frank Vogel didn’t make the adjustments from game 2 to 3, and realized that even when you win, you still need to change certain things in your system. Roy Hibbert simply standing around beneath the basket stopped working because the Heat found a way to move around that, thanks to their excellent ball movement and screening off the ball, freeing up shooters from outside the paint, while they also started taking the game to Hibbert once he showed signs of getting tired. Hibbert isn’t going to withstand playing 38-39 minutes each game, and the Heat will begin to take more and more advantage of that.
So what do the Pacers do? They might try switching once in a while. Paul George could take Udonis Haslem on certain possessions, as Haslem might have the strength advantage, but he can’t operate in the post, and George has a reputation of shutting down shooters who are probably better than Haslem. It will put David West on James, at least in situations when James tries to go to the basket via his post game. West did an excellent job on Anthony during the series against the Knicks.
One problem with that is the Heat will start isolating James on West on drives to the basket, and West won’t be able to keep up. But the Heat are the better team, with the unstoppable, most of the time, superstar, on their side. The Pacers are the team who most likely need to get more creative after showing too much of their cards in the first three rounds. In order for them to get a little bit more out of this series before it slips beyond their grasp, Frank Vogel needs to find a way to help Paul George in his lost-battle against LeBron James, while not giving away too much in other areas of the floor.