The Miami Heat have entered a game 2 of a playoff series down a game during the Big Three era, always managing to erase that early loss. This time, without home court advantage and some clear inferiority against the once again confident Indiana Pacers, there’s a greater feel of desperation to it all, although it’s impossible to predict which Roy Hibbert will show up, and when the next LeBron James explosion is due.
The Heat didn’t suffer because of a bad game from James or Wade. It was everybody else, and especially Chris Bosh who scored only 9 points on 4-of-12 from the field, while neither Ray Allen or Mario Chalmers provided the kind of outside shooting spark the Heat usually need to carry them when things aren’t going according to plan. And there was that huge problem with Roy Hibbert and David West.
No defense is perfect – it’s always about finding the weak point. The Heat have been so successful over the last three years for a variety of reasons, but defense has always been on top or near the top of that list. That factor was non-existent in the 107-96 loss in game 1, as their one on one attempts to stop West and Hibbert failed, which was followed by sending plenty of help into the paint, making it easy for Paul George, George Hill and Lance Stephenson to knock down open shots. LeBron James, as weird as it is to say, could have done a better job overall when defending.
One way to counter that is simply playing better – moving faster, which probably means using Shane Battier in the lineup and giving up completely on Udonis Haslem, who looked bad on all fronts in game 1. Battier can’t stop West in post up situations, but he is quicker than Haslem and can help out in the paint before running out to shooters. There’s also a much better chance of him catching fire from the outside, while Haslem couldn’t even help with his mid range shot, maybe the one good thing he has left.
Considering Miami have given up on Rashard Lewis and Michael Beasley (but who knows when they’ll turn up to try and swing this series offensively), the other options is playing big. Greg Oden doesn’t seem to be in the plans, but playing with both Chris Bosh as a true ‘4’ and Chris Andersen next to him in the lineup sounds like a good idea, which has also worked for Miami in the past: Over the last 2 seasons, including playoffs, the Heat have outscored the Pacers by 25 points in 80 minutes with the duo on the court together, while getting outscored by 9 points with 1 or both of them off the court.
So these are the adjustments the Heat need to make on defense. Offense? It’s simple, but not easy. Not getting frustrated and launching deep, early, bad shots, is going to help. Attacking Roy Hibbert early isn’t a bad idea. Taking his confidence away from him or at least attempting to sounds like a good idea, and the Heat can’t give up on trying to score inside, especially after struggling to get to the line.
The Pacers couldn’t have played any better in game 1. When their inside defense and offense is working, everything is easier. They even got some help from C.J. Watson, which was unexpected. Keeping their two units relatively level is impossible, but keeping the momentum by pushing the ball to Hibbert in the paint and moving the ball quickly to create open shots for George and Hill remains the key to embarrassing the Miami defense and getting closer to reaching the NBA finals.