Losing home court advantage? Check. Looking slightly outmatched on the court for a big chunks of the series so far? Happened as well. The Miami Heat have been the most scrutinized franchise in the NBA over the last three seasons, with LeBron James usually in the center of that storm. Most of the time, they find the solutions to find the right path to get themselves out of trouble.
The problem this time? Just like the Heat struggled in their series with the Indiana Pacers last season, it’s happening all over again a year later, and a stage later in the postseason. The Indiana Pacers look like a team that’s not afraid of the champions pedigree, or from the star power of LeBron James and the others.
Sure, they’re struggling containing James, but they’re seeing a hobbled Dwyane Wade make a real effort just being on court sometimes, and seeing the rest of the players, especially Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem fail at every chance they get to step up and make a difference, to be the x-factor. Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier are just 6-37 from the field through the first 2 games of the Conference Finals. Even if James scored 36 points every single night from now on, they’re not winning the series like that.
But the Heat, as we’ve said, have been in trouble before. They came back from three deficits in three different series last year on the road to the NBA title. A few times it was simply James and sometimes Wade taking the entire game on their backs and grinding through till the victory is achieved. More often than not, it’s about a team pulling together on both ends of the floor, and solving whatever it is they can’t stop.
Right now, it’s two things – Roy Hibbert, destroying them on the boards, in the paint and as a shot changer, while the emergence of George Hill as a very efficient pick & roll player and scorer. It seems whatever Spoelstra is doing with both Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole is eroding their confidences, hurting them on the defensive end. The Heat might need to start trapping earlier and deny the pick & roll, trying to force the ball into the hands of Lance Stephenson as much as possible, or David West when it’s not Shane Battier on him.
Hibbert? It’s about attacking him. The Pacers are going to help on James, and he’s simply going to need to make better decision than he did at the end of game 2. They read his intentions of giving Ray Allen the ball in those two turnovers perfectly, and James needs to show them, more than once, that the human wall known as Hibbert isn’t going to bother him, and through that start getting his teammates involved.
These Pacers are better than they were last season, while the Heat, even with the addition of Ray Allen and Chris Andersen, are still hoping Dwyane Wade manages to overcome the pain. But beyond that individual problem, they need their head coach and their best player to figure out this Pacers defense, and carry them into the vantage point once again.