Indiana’s offense is going to find it hard to score on Miami and their turnovers — 15.2 percent of possessions in the playoffs, it was 16.2 percent in the regular season, second worst in the league — will get them in trouble.
—PBT Preview of the Eastern Conference Finals
I’m quoting myself but this was the general consensus coming into the series — Indiana’s defense could slow the Heat but their offense wouldn’t score enough to win them this series.
Four games in we don’t know who will win this series but we know one thing — Indiana can score on the Heat. A lot.
And that is why this series is tied 2-2. Miami’s offense has done well against the vaunted Pacers defense, but Miami’s aggressive defense has not been able to stop the Pacers. That is why Indiana has a real shot to pull the upset and advance to the NBA finals.
Behind great performances from Paul George and Roy Hibbert the Pacers have averaged 111.3 points per 100 possessions against the Heat this series. That is nearly 10 points better than their 101.6 points per 100 possessions this season (19th in the NBA). For some perspective, Miami had the best offense in the NBA for the regular season at 110.3 per 100. Indy has been better than that.
Tuesday night they had an offensive rating of 120 per 100. In the blowout loss of Game 3 they still scored 112.5 per 100, in Game 2 it was 112.7.
The Pacers are doing this by grabbing offensive rebounds on 39.9 percent of their missed shots (think about it, four out of 10 missed shots lead to a second chance) and getting to the line more — they average 26.5 points a game at the line (stats via NBA.com). The Pacers also are taking fewer three pointers compared to the regular season, basically by cutting out the unassisted threes (few guys can create a three look of the bounce, so better not to take them). They also are just generally shooting a slightly higher percentage overall.
It all adds up. The free throws and offensive rebounds allow them to answer the Heat runs and not get buried (Game 3 being the exception). While the Pacers are turning the ball over (17 percent of their possessions) they aren’t paying a serious price for that.
While the Heat do need more out of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and he rest of LeBron James’ supporting cast on the offensive end, it is the other end of the floor that will be the key to who takes on the Spurs in the finals. If Indiana can keep up an offensive rate well above their season average, they have a legitimate shot at knocking off the Heat.