The Indiana Pacers have been posing quite a big problem for the NBA champions in their Eastern conference finals series, but once again their inability to get something extra from more than two players, this time being Paul George and the more consistent Roy Hibbert, cost them a game they had in their grasp until they broke down on both ends of the floor.
Maybe the signs were there from the start. The Pacers have held the lead so far in the series 64% of the time, and yet they have managed to create any game killing runs, with their “offensive dominance” not coming down to anything more than scoring 25 points in a quarter. They lost game 5 90-79, scoring below 90 for the first time in the series, and showing once again they get nothing from their bench, while they can’t rely on winning without their guards, George Hill and Lance Stephenson, playing at least a decent offensive game.
They won the first quarter 23-19, with all 23 points scored by Paul George and Roy Hibbert. Yet the confidence of the Pacers has them looking at all the wrong signs to think that they’re a lot more dominant than they really are. While Hibbert’s scoring is about ruling in the paint, George simply made shots that the Heat had good defensive looks at. They simply went in. Besides that? Nothing. The two combined to score all 23 points for Indiana in the first quarter, but combined for 27 more points the rest of the way, which was too low for a team that had nothing else to give the moment the Heat intensified their defense and started solving the Pacers’ defense.
So the Heat stopped posting up, and did very bad when they did (only 0.34 points per possession), but Indiana couldn’t figure out LeBron James. After hitting some big shots from long range, he opened up the Pacers defense enough to drive inside again and again after pick & rolls, freeing Udonis Haslem up for the same kind of shots that helped the Heat destroy the Pacers in game 3. Indiana once again didn’t know what to do once the dominance of Roy Hibbert no longer came into play, and simply folded on both ends of the floor.
Their guards, who were so good in game 4, simply didn’t show up. Over confidence coming from misreading the games usually leads to these falls. The Pacers stopped dominating the offensive glass (only six offensive rebounds), and nothing of their physical and other advantages over the Heat showed up in the second half. George Hill and Lance Stephenson played like driving to the basket while lowering their heads was the only way to go, and ended up with only 5 points on 2-of-11 from the field, while their bench added only 8 points.
There’s a lot of bad blood and hate in this series, as there often is when teams meet in consecutive playoffs. But the Pacers have got the “bad boys” thing stuck too much in their head, and end up losing focus and overly frustrated when things don’t go their way or they don’t get the kind of calls that went on during game 4, which had nothing to do with basketball. Roy Hibbert faded away, as 40 minutes a night all through the series seem to be a bit much for him, and rest isn’t going to come with Ian Mahimi the only other option to replace him, while David West has long stretches of ineffectivity, despite his 17 points and 8 rebounds that show he had a “good game.” His help defense and certain shot selection weren’t very helpful along the way.
For once, Frank Vogel wasn’t about trying to stir up emotions even more, and simply said they were beaten, fair & square, by a better team. When you waste all your ammunition in the first quarter, you’re not likely to hang on to the lead the rest of the way.
This whole team is special. It’s one of the best teams that this league’s ever seen and we’re enjoying competing against them. We know we can beat them, but we’ve got to play better than we did tonight.