Despite putting up impressive numbers like 20 points and 17 rebounds, Roy Hibbert was far from his usual effectiveness on both ends of the floor. The Indiana Pacers couldn’t get stops on defense because they didn’t have a plan and reaction course in case their center wasn’t as effective anymore. Paul George went through a nightmarish night, and all the hard work of the first two games evaporated in an instant.
The Pacers were able to keep up with the Miami Heat and nearly match them shot for shot in an insane first quarter than ended in a 34-30 lead for the Heat, but there’s a point when even the Pacers had to start relying on their defense, which wasn’t up for the challenge. They’re a better offensive team than given credit for before the playoffs, but giving up 70 points in one half isn’t an option for Indiana, who crumbled in front of the ball movement the Miami Heat presented them with.
It ended in a 114-96 loss that silenced the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, already witnessing two wins over the Heat this season. While David West and George Hill enjoyed a good offensive night, making the most of their mismatches, combining to score 40 points on 50% from the field, the rest of the Pacers shot only 34% from the field, as their bench was useless as always, while the trio of Paul George, Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson weren’t up for the beating they took on defense.
Hibbert did score 20 points, but was only 4-of-12 from the field, as the Heat kept sending him to the line (where he was an excellent 12-of-15, which is rare for a big man like Hibbert). They gave up 7 offensive rebounds to the 7’2 center, but they wouldn’t have him score easy points on them, and his moments of domination were far fewer than in the previous game.
On defense, they couldn’t keep up with the pace and passing the Heat used in their ball movement, complemented by screens and the cuts made by both James and Wade, freeing up Haslem and Bosh for mostly open jumpers time and time again. When you allow Haslem to score 17 points on an almost perfect shooting night, which forced Hibbert to start respecting that risk, you’re doing something wrong.
But in that, the Pacers were exposed. The Heat did two things – they kept showing Hibbert and the Pacers they weren’t afraid of trying to score on him or around him in the paint, while drawing him out to cover those jumpers. James went to work on Paul George, destroying him in the post, while the Heat scored 52 points in the paint on 70.3%. The moment Roy Hibbert, as we warned, gets a little bit tired or doesn’t function properly, the Pacers seem a bit lost.
Frank Vogel and his team only reacted to the Heat’s aggression instead of trying to keep the momentum going by changing things up a little bit in game 3. They handed out a challenge to the Miami Heat and got beaten by a better team. Now, it’s their turn to find new weaknesses, but their spirit at the end of game 3 might suggest they don’t know where these answers are going to come from.