Chris Andersen’s shoulder/stare down/shove of Tyler Hansbrough early in the second quarter of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals distracted from another interesting development that followed. Once the dust settled, Hansbrough made one of two free throws granted due to Andersen’s flagrant 1.
Those were the Pacers’ first points scored by someone other than Paul George or Roy Hibbert.
George and Hibbert scored Indiana’s first 29 points in its 90-79 loss to Miami, and though they slowed as the game progressed, both turned in overall impressive performances that will unfortunately be forgotten in the wake of LeBron James’ dominance. George finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, and Hibbert had 22 points and six rebounds.
George and Hibbert have now scored scored at least 22 points three times each against the Heat in the playoffs. That gives them more postseason 22-point games again Miami’s typically sterling defense than everyone else combined (Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Carlos Boozer, Nate Robinson and David West each have one.)
And Indiana doesn’t seem shy about continuing to feed its only All-Stars in the last four years.
They share the ball well, but in an effort to paint them as a foil to the superstar-driven Heat, the Pacers have been inappropriately hailed as a beacon of offensive balance. George and Hibbert accounted for 49 of the Pacers’ 79 points in Game 3 – 62 percent – a share of total points Miami’s top scorers haven’t hit since LeBron James scored 39 and Wade scored 27 of the Heat’s 99 points during a January win over the Lakers.
While Indiana was building a 29-25 lead on points from only George and Hibbert, George shot 6-for-8 and Hibbert shot 6-for-9. George Hill assisted three baskets, and George assisted another, but for a team that assisted 58 percent of its field goals during the regular season, four assists on 12 makes isn’t many. George and Hibbert were really creating a lot of their offense on their own.
Of course, some of it was fluky. George made 3-of-4 3-pointers in that span, and Hibbert made jumpers from 16, 10 and 12 feet. Indiana can’t count on that in the long run.
But Miami hasn’t shown sustained success in guarding either. Udonis Haslem got his chance on Hibbert, and he didn’t fare any better than Chris Bosh and Andersen before him. Nobody has shown the devotion to expending the energy necessary to defend George for long stretches.
Still, the Heat started double-teaming Hibbert and then double-teaming him effectively. They also made George put the ball on the floor more, and that can make him turnover prone.
The Pacers should feed George and Hibbert gain in Game 6 and make the Heat prove they can defend them. Miami showed glimpses of defending those two better, but George and Hibbert are still capable of producing at levels no other Heat opponent has shown this postseason.