Shane Battier hasn’t been able to be very effective for the Heat during the Eastern Conference finals, which may be the reason he’s had to resort to a more physical style of play against the big men of the Pacers.
Battier has been in the middle of a few minor confrontations in the series, and the Pacers players — specifically David West and Roy Hibbert, the bigs that are giving Miami so many problems — said after shootaround on Thursday in advance of Game 5 that part of their preparation is to be aware of Battier taking shots at their knees.
“I (learned) to always have my guard up and protect my knees,” West said. “(Battier) has got this funny way of moving into your knees. We’re very conscious of that. We talk about making sure we protect our knees.”
“I know what (Battier) brings to the game and it’s worked for him in the past. He has to do whatever he has to do to make sure his team wins,” Hibbert said. “I’m going to watch my knees, watch my groin. … To tell you the truth, I don’t care. I’m in there, I’m playing tough. He has to do what he has to do.
“Obviously I don’t like it but it’s a part of the game. I don’t want to look back say I gave in to a dirty player.”
Battier has a reputation of being an above average defender, though he’s not nearly as strong defensively as he’s been given credit for, especially during his days with the Houston Rockets.
But despite the fact that he’s lost a step in this advanced stage of his career, Battier is still one of the smarter defenders in the game, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn that he’s resorting to some alternative tactics to try to battle the size disadvantage that he and his team face during this series.
Battier has already been guilty of one objectively dirty play, leading with his knee on a drive to the basket where he caught Hibbert in the groin during Game 1. The referees actually reviewed the play to determine if it should have been called a flagrant foul, which is beyond rare for a play made by the offense.
The officiating has become a topic in this series, and the Pacers knew what they were doing by putting this out there the day of a critical Game 5 on the road. The referees now will be watching for these tactics from Battier, whether subconsciously or not, and may whistle him a bit more closely than they have through the first four games of the series.
It’s worth noting that Battier’s inability to impact the game defensively is of far less concern than is his shooting. During the Heat’s run to a championship last year, Battier shot an extremely high percentage, and was huge in knocking down several big time shots. So far against Indiana, Battier is a combined 2-of-14 from the field, with all but one of his attempts coming from three-point distance.