The Indiana Pacers have been able to survive elimination once in these playoffs, but the challenge against the Miami Heat, going into game 5 with a 3-1 lead, is completely different. Paul George and Lance Stephenson seem too busy trash talking while their head coach Frank Vogel seems to be clueless as to how to adjust to what the defending NBA champions are doing, as LeBron James seemed to take his game to a whole other level in their most recent win.
The Heat keep changing things, even if its forced. The lineup with Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh playing together wasn’t working defensively, so out comes Rashard Lewis and his long arms out of nowhere to completely shut down David West. Chris Andersen did a great job previously in lineups next to Chris Bosh, but he was injured, missing game 4, and along with Ray Allen, is doubtful for the next game as well.
What can the Indiana Pacers do to change their fate, as it seems more and more people are agreeing that they’re simply an inferior team to the Miami Heat, proven once again in this series despite finally getting home court advantage on their side? There’s no answer from the bench and Vogel isn’t the gambling type as well. He does get points from Luis Scola (12 points) here and there, but his defense usually makes it worthwhile for the Heat to face him on the court.
Maybe the key is with Roy Hibbert, who was somewhat ignored by his offense in the fourth game and spent too many minutes on the bench because of foul trouble. The Heat have a problem handling him, but it’s not just his points and rebounds, but the problems he creates in other areas, helping others get open when Miami rush to help out Bosh or someone else in the paint with Hibbert wrecking havoc. Going to him early is important, but not enough, as he rarely has the stamina to keep up the pace for an entire game.
The Heat have started attacking Hibbert early which makes a world of a difference. It gets him in foul trouble, and opens up so many options for both James and Wade. Chris Bosh was a lot more aggressive in game 4 and not just because he was finally making some long range shots, but because he was attacking the basket, unlike the first three games in the series which were about him missing shot after shot from everywhere.
The Heat have someone to give them an energy boost and spark off the bench – Norris Cole. The Pacers? C.J. Watson, like the point guard he replaces in George Hill, is a reactionary, and doesn’t have that spark plug quality. The Pacers need Hill confident while Stephenson and George highlight with their individual ability, but without playing smart offense which usually comes from their defense getting its way, relying on David West and Hibbert to dominate near the rim for an entire game just doesn’t seem like a good plan.
It’s now or never for the Indiana Pacers who need to find more than just one way to win a basketball game. The Miami Heat being confident might mean they fall asleep offensively like they did in the fourth quarter of the previous game. There’s a feeling that failing here will start a summer of rumors about the place of too many people in the organization for the Pacers despite being a mostly young team with plenty of regular season success. Not getting past the Heat hurdle for a third time might be too hard to stomach for some.